From Gavin’s Desk

Bible Readings: James 1: 1-27; Psalm 104: 24-35, Proverbs 8: 1-36

Why do we give gifts? There are many reasons for giving gifts, some righteous and some not so righteous but we know that ideally a gift that is given is a gift that should be given fully. When we give a gift, we give it because of who we are, not because of who the person is that we give the gift to. Whether they receive it or not, when we give a gift for a righteous reason, we give it because of our love for them or because we appreciate them or because we believe that this is the right thing to do (as an act of showing mercy or compassion); and it will always be because it is our way of expressing something about how we feel. We can encourage them to use it because we believe that it would make their life better, but if we hold them ransom to the gift; then we are not actually giving a gift, we are making a down payment on something we expect to be receiving in return. A gift that becomes payment for services we expect to be rendered can either be a bribe or it makes the recipient of the gift our puppet or prostitute. When we give out of fear, it is a bribe because we are hoping that this will sway the receiver to not be angry with us or hurt us or bring calamity upon our heads.

God gives good gifts. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17, NIV). When God gives us the gift of life, the gift of redemption, the gift of community, the gift of healing, the gift of salvation, the gift of peace with Him and every other good and perfect gift that He gives; He does not give it to us because of who we are, but He gives it because of who He is and He knows perfectly what we need. He gives it because as a perfect God and a perfect Father who is giving perfect gifts; the gifts will all make our lives better. They will all bring something beautiful out of every situation. They will bring life out of every death. God does not expect anything in return for His gifts except that we would use them because they make for a fulfilled life and they help us remain close to Him because God knows that remaining close to Him is the best place we could ever be. This is why He pours out His gifts of full life for all people and those who are willing to receive it will receive it.

Even though we hope that the gifts we give with a right heart will make the recipient’s life better, we are not always sure what they are going through or even what they really need and so more often than not, our gift giving becomes a case of best guess (even though some guesses are more educated than others). As if God was not the perfect gift giver; we so easily credit Him with bringing suffering and death as well as playing a divine lottery with His blessings, as we wait for Him to bring our ship in because that is what we ordered in the catalogue. If God does not delight in suffering or delight in death and if God does not tempt us, then how could this be from a good and perfect God? God does not bring suffering, death or temptation, but they are rather a consequence of our living apart from God, of disobedience to God’s guidance (not necessarily our own or even our generation’s disobedience) and so part of the gift that God gives us as we remain close to Him is that He draws us through death and is present with us in suffering and out of both, He brings life. Even though it is not from God; He will use it to help us onto maturity in our faith and maturity in our love because that is a part of God’s good and perfect gift.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

How much do you really know about yourself? Do you know your strength in the face of adversity? Do you know your ability to persevere under constant opposition? Do you know your weakness when faced with a vice? Do you know how well you can deceive yourself in the face of something you don’t want to believe is true of yourself or of something that affects you emotionally? Do you know the debilitating affect of your fears and your insecurities on your life? Do you know what your fears and insecurities are? Do you know the power of justice or of injustice that you bring with you when it is a part of a corporate push for justice or injustice? Do you know your potential for good? Do you know your potential for evil? Do you know the harmful effects of your stubbornness on your life and on the lives of others? Do you know the harmful effects of your apathy or feebleness on your life and on the lives of others?

Since theories of self-awareness started to raise their heads (before and after Freud), the common understanding has been that we are not aware of all that takes place within our psyche. We have been socialised to hold certain bias, we have been taught to respond in certain ways, we have internalised false truths that are maintained because they benefit us on some level even if it is unhealthy. We have been created with a rebellious nature that helps us to test our boundaries, discover our potential for greatness and helps us achieve it even in the face of evidence to the contrary; but the same rebellion becomes our obstacle to greatness when we fail to follow the wisdom set before us. We are created with certain defence mechanisms that are necessary for survival and growth but then they also become hindrances to the same. There is so much that we think we know, but clearly we don’t; which is why one theory after another finds its place in the sun – there is no ultimate theory devised by humans about our human condition that can claim to cover every base. The only theory that is inclusive is the one given by God Himself – in order to live fully into who we are created to be, we need the help of the One who created us. In all things, we respond “with God’s help I will” because there is so much about myself and the world that I do not understand. With God’s help I will not give up learning how to live in the fullness of the love of God. With God’s help I will not allow that which would distract me from my purpose to interfere with the fulfilment of my calling. With God’s help, I will continue to pay attention to the world and the work of God in it. With God’s help I will continue to be a part of “us” because it is when I am a part of “us” that I am able to become what I was meant to be because it is then that we become what we are meant to be.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

There is a school of thought that says that we should say and do everything that we think and desire without guard because that is the healthiest thing for us to do as we are free to give expression to that which is within us. There is another school of thought (it is called the school of good sense through experience) that says that once we have said something, it cannot be unsaid, once we have done something it cannot be undone, once we have broken a trust, it cannot be unbroken; it can only be mended, but even in that, there will always be a scar or a mark that reminds us of the consequences of unguarded actions.

I believe that as we process any conversation, any setting, any action which we are a part of or which we are simply observing we have a multitude of thoughts and possible scenarios that run through our minds as we work out which one would be the best scenario for this given conversation, setting or action. Obviously since there are many possible scenarios that we process, we are unable to say or do all of them because they are often opposed and ultimately we would have to choose one scenario because we can’t simultaneously do or say all of them (once we have said or done something, the situation then changes and we need to process a different multitude of possible scenarios). The scenario that we select, the one that would often be the first one that comes to mind would be that which we spend most of our time considering, the one that we would consider most acceptable for us. We effectively train ourselves how to respond and react in any given situation.

We guard our thoughts (what we think about, what we listen to, what we watch) because our thoughts become our actions and our actions come to define us as they become the means by which we will be perceived by the people around us who will often bind us to that definition long enough for us to start believing that we are the person they think we are. It is often only when somebody comes along and offers us an alternative possibility as to who they can see us being that we begin to believe that about ourselves. We give others the power to influence our lives and our self-image, and often we give them too much power.

Paul calls the believers to allow God to influence their lives, he calls on them to allow God to be their first thought so that the first possible scenario that comes to mind in working out what to think or say or do would be one of building up instead of breaking down. With God as our first thought (and our last thought), we immerse ourselves in the love of God that is beyond understanding but is seen and testified to in the healing love of life that becomes a part of all we think and say and do. Think on the things of God and as you meditate on it day and night, allow it to become your first thought in everything.

Gavin