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Now that Valentines Day is officially behind us, yet still fresh enough on our minds to warrant some reflection, have you ever thought much about the gifts we give to one another as expressions of our love? If you haven’t, I invite you to do so. It might help you to “think outside the box” in the future and allow you to creatively approach your gift-giving practices to the loved ones in your life.

Gift giving is a statement of our affection for another as well as a statement of our own character and attitudes about life in general. Casual gift-giving, for example, might inadvertently express the subtle point that we take someone for granted. On the other hand, doing so with thoughtfulness indicates attention and interest in another.

Of course, it is important to remember that gift-giving is only one manner of expressing love and regard for others. There is also service, words of affirmation, and a few other things that, if you’re interested, you can learn more about in the The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

But gift-giving is certainly one important way that we will often choose to express our affection for another. It can be a good and powerful way in doing so and we should never be reluctant to do it when it is appropriate, helpful, and sincere. However, in our day and age, we might be prone to missing some of the finer points of gift giving. Here are a couple of things to consider as you either give gifts to someone else or are the recipient of gifts.

First, a gift of true love is never given to buy or win the affection of the beloved. It is given as an expression of delight and devotion of the one who gives it. It represents the sacrificial regard of the giver for the one gifted and is a way of saying, “I love you more than what this cost me.” Such gifts, therefore, represent some sort of sacrifice. The sacrifice may not be material (although it could be), but could be time taken to painfully seek out and acquire the gift for the sake of the beloved.

If the gift is slighted or rejected, the giver may persist in his expressions of love, yet every effort turned away runs the risk of being the last for there is little joy in spurned affection and only pain when sacrifice is held in contempt. One might suggest that one who has given such gifts also give the recipient the gift of choosing how to respond. If it is received well and in the spirit that it is given, then the joy of the giver and beloved is multiplied. If the recipient chooses to reject it, then the giver can choose to move on without the bitterness that comes from the sinful notion that giving a gift to another human being somehow indebts them to you.

Another thought to kick around about gift-giving is that a gift loved for itself, one that usurps the place of affection rightfully belonging to the giver, is misplaced and disgracefully received. Nothing is uglier and more a display of contemptuous ingratitude than love for a gift over the one who gives it. It would wound your heart indeed if another loved you only for the material things you handed him and, in the moment you had nothing left to give, dropped all interest in you and moved on to someone else who could materially provide for them.

So if any of these principles apply to our human relationships, then consider there spiritual implications. For instance, God does not give us blessings in order to win us over (to get us to “like Him”), but His doing so definitely serve as signs that we really are the “children of God”.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV).

The blessing of being given gifts from God is not primarily in the gift itself, however wonderful and timely it may seem. It is not in the material things. It is not the new job or the better income. It is not the healing or that wonderful new relationship. Those are “gifts” from God, yes, but they are not the main gift He is granting us. The primary gift is that the Holy Countenance of God Himself is turned toward us… in love. He Himself, therefore, is the greatest gift of all. In token of this, He gave us Himself through the Person of His Son, Jesus, Who died on the cross that we might be reconciled to the Father. The giving of this gift continues daily as He gives us Himself through His Holy Spirit (God living in us and through us day-by-day).

So if ever we love “things” in place of our God, we can be sure that such things are at risk of being stripped from us. God is, after all, a jealous God (see Deuteronomy 5:11). Such things, these lesser gifts, are actually hindrances in our receiving His greatest gift. He would rather we be naked and hungry when finally we enter into the comfort of our eternal home with Him then for us, in this life, to be blissfully content with all manner of pleasures and conveniences as we stroll along into the waiting fires of hell.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

No one can out-give God because there is no greater treasure than Himself to give and there is no greater sacrifice than in His giving His sinless, perfect Son for you and me, sinners who do not deserve His love. Yet, the gift is given. The gift is yours and mine for the receiving through faith in Jesus alone. So let us receive His gift, Jesus, with humble adoration and gratitude and, in turn, give Him our lives and give Him our all. This gift we give Him is all that He asks and makes room in our lives for the precious treasures of knowing His love and power working in and through us.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Valentine Day ReminderMany years ago, our daughter was preparing Valentine Day notes the other day for some of her friends, when she snatched up a “Sleeping Beauty” card with a great big, red heart on it and held it up in her hand, waving it around enthusiastically.

“This one is for Jesus!” she announced. Sleeping Beauty ranks number one (at the moment) of her favorite princesses. “I’m going to give Him this one!”

Her mother replied, “Oh, you are, are you? How’re you going to do that?”

“When I go to Heaven, I’m going to take it with me and when I see Jesus, I’m going to run up to Him and give it to Him!” she explained carefully.

What can you say? Her mom smiled at her, commended her for wanting to give Jesus her best valentine, and moved on.

Later on, the subject came up again with two of her older brothers. She told them that she planned to give her Valentine to the Lord Jesus. They listened thoughtfully, and when she had finished, one of her brothers said with good intentions, “That’s nice, but I don’t know that Jesus will ever read it. Well, He can read it but it’s not like He’s going to come down and just get it.”

His younger brother interrupted, “Ah, but how do you know? He could!”

On that thought, my daughter began to whirl around the room like a ballerina, flitting about and waving the Valentine as if it were an oriental fan, singing, “Here it is, Jesus! Here’s Your Valentine! Come and get it!”

That evening, she was sitting in my lap while I sat in my chair, and she told me again about how she was giving her Valentine to Jesus. When she was done, she held it in front of me solemnly and then slipped it into my shirt pocket. “Would you hold it for me until I can give it to Jesus?” she asked.

I pulled it back out of my pocket. “I think that maybe you should take this and put it away with some of your other special things, sweetie!” She smiled and took it from my hand, running off to presumably place it with her other treasures.

There, she did it again. She, as do all of my children, has a way of coming into the hum-drum routine of daily life and lobbing “deep thoughts” my way with reckless abandon. Sometimes those “deep thoughts” blow in like bubbles, inspiring warm and comforting images of God’s great grace and patience; sometimes, like bricks, they break the windows of presumption of my heart and I find myself a bit rattled.

In this particular instance, I was not in any particular hurry to contemplate again the mortality of my children. I would be much less disturbed in considering my own. Nevertheless, the “brick” has been thrown. When our second oldest son was only eight months old and we had been told that he likely had Leukemia (which, I am glad to say, he did not), my whole world was shaken to its core. When our daughter was arriving and the doctor suggested that neither the baby nor her mother may survive, I was profoundly shaken yet again. In the same way, when life-threatening events seemed to “zero in” on our other two children, we have been forced to reconsider our priorities!

My daughter waxing on and on about giving her Valentine directly to Jesus painfully reminded me of her mortality, and then, as a result of that harrowing thought, of the importance of not losing focus on what is truly important. Frankly, I am glad for such reminders for they are opportunities for me to reevaluate how I am spending my life!

As you know, Valentine messages are generally either made in the shape of hearts or are adorned by them. Her dancing, with her Valentine held up high for Jesus, underscored to me the supreme importance that she truly gives her heart to Jesus, especially while she is yet a child. This weighs very deeply upon my heart… that she and my sons all come to a genuine and life-saving faith in Jesus Christ and then dwell in a deep and abiding relationship with Him.

I thank the Lord for such a gentle reminder that every single moment that I have with each of them is a gift given to me from God. Obviously I do not wish to squander these moments of enjoying them, but I certainly do not want to lose the chance that I have while they are young to do all I can to help them see God the Father’s love for them and the need right now for them to seek Him with all of their hearts, all of their lives!

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’… before the silver cord is snapped… and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6a, 7 ESV).

If you are a parent, or have influence over little ones, ask yourself the question, “To whom is my child giving his or heart?” While you cannot decide for your child to accept God’s love expressed to us through Jesus Christ, what are you doing to be a catalyst in his or her life that he or she comes to know God’s love personally? What about you, your choices, your lifestyle, and your priorities is pointing that child to an abiding relationship with his or her Creator?

If you are finding yourself painfully unable to answer this, then why not turn the direction of your life over to God right now and ask Him to help you to be the person your child needs you to be, even if he or she has reached adulthood? Take in faith God’s desire to set things straight and His will to turn things around if you will surrender yourself to Him. Allow God to set things right in your own heart and then, through your submitted will, allow Him to start making a difference in the life of someone you love.

Copyright ©Thom Mollohan

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