Give More this Christmas

by Erin Bird

In last week’s post, I talked about Spend Less, one of the four tenets of the Advent Conspiracy movement. This week, I want to touch on another tenet: Give More.

At first glance, these two tenets (Spend Less vs. Give More) seem to be contradictory. If you are going to give more, don’t you have to spend more?

It’s like playing the piano. I was a piano major in college. Since I didn’t become a professional pianist, I ended up using my degree to give each of my children piano lessons at home. When each of my kids were learning the difference between playing loud and playing soft, they naturally would want to speed up when the song got louder or slow down when a song got quieter. But it is quite possible to play a song loud and slow (like a national anthem), or quickly and quietly (like a movie soundtrack adding suspense to an intense scene).

Likewise, it is VERY possible for you to Give More while simultaneously Spending Less. For instance, you can give more of your time by making presents this year or by volunteering someplace. You could give someone “coupons” for things like “shovel your drive,” “do your laundry,” “go on a date,” or “wash your car.” All it takes is a little creative thinking. And oftentimes you’ll find presents like these actually mean more to the recipient than a store-purchased gift.

Along with this idea to Give More, I want to challenge you to consider how you can give more financially outside your family and close friends. Whether it be to Riverwood’s Impact Gift (which we will collect on Dec 17 and given to the Waverly Benevolence Fund), or a great Christ-centered organization like Compassion or International Justice Mission, giving helps relieve the tension that so often grips our hearts. Giving financially to others frees us up so our hearts aren’t wrapped up in money. Then we are free to enjoy God and truly live life. Giving to others actually gives us joy.

This is why several years ago our family changed how we did our three gifts to each of our kids. Remember last week, I mentioned how we give each of our children three gifts based on the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child. The “myrrh” gift we give as a “practical” gift.

But it dawned on us: whenever we need to get our kids something practical, like socks or jeans or winter boots, we just go out and buy it without much thought. Once we realized this, we made a decision with our kids to  give away their myrrh giftsThey get to choose giving something like clean water or food or mosquito nets or something else really practical to those in greater need. The first year we did this, I remember one of our kids saying, “I’m really glad we’re doing this!”

Giving More to others gives more joy to you. And it frees you up to enjoy Christmas more. So I encourage you to Spend Less so you can Give More. If God can Give More by giving us Jesus, and Jesus can Give More by giving up his life for us, we can follow His example and Give More of our self this Christmas.

Spend Less at Christmas?

by Erin Bird

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the Christmas season! Houses all around town have lights on them. (I seriously think my house is the only one on my block without them!) Radio stations are pumping out Christmas music over the airwaves. And loud advertisements bombard us to purchase gifts for our loved ones.

Well, those advertisements must work. Because Americans spend a LOT of money on Christmas.

OUR ADDICTION TO SPENDING

On Black Friday last week, Americans spent over $5 Billion. And Cyber Monday was even crazier. America set a new “record” spending $6.59 Billion. If that pace continues, it means, America will break the $658 Billion dollar record spent on Christmas last year.

AC 2017 Presentation ThemeArtboard 1 copy 13 350x197 - Spend Less at Christmas?That’s a lot of moola. But what does that equate to for the average consumer? Over $900. And most of that $900-per-American goes on credit cards, which takes some people months to pay off (making it actually far more than $900!).

But while Americans are making VISA rich, global crises continue. For instance, Advent Conspiracy claims it would only take $10 Billion dollars to provide safe water to everyone on the globe.

So what if we spent a little less on ourselves this Christmas so we could give more to those in need?

THE SIMPLE POWER OF “SPEND LESS”

This Christmas, I want to encourage you to Spend Less. Rather than convey your thoughtfulness to others through the amount you spend, I challenge you to convey your love in creative ways:

  • You might create something rather than buy it.
  • You could write someone a poem or a song.
  • You could give them a gift of food rather than a gift certificate to a restaurant.
  • You could even give them a homemade “coupon book” full of chores or tasks you will do for them.

These type of gifts will be better for your bank account, better for your heart, and quite possibly better for your relationships.

A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE

gift 350px 350x234 - Spend Less at Christmas?Here’s one way my family lives this tenet out: LeAnn and I decided years ago to not give each of our kids 5 or 6 (or more) presents, nor focus on spending an equitable dollar amount on each of them. Instead, we give them only three gifts. Each gift is representative of the gifts the Magi gave the Christ Child in Matthew chapter 2.

  • The “myrrh” gift is something practical,
  • the “incense” gift is something to help them grow spiritually during the next year,
  • and the “gold” gift is the thoughtful, valuable gift – something we know will be meaningful to each of our kids.

We then set a budget for these gifts and stick to it. This helps us Spend Less each Christmas while making Christmas more meaningful for our kids.

Next week, we will look at the topic of Give More. Until then, think about how you can Spend Less this Christmas, while still making this one of the best Christmases you can remember.

Cry Out for a Reason to be Thankful

by Nate Luck

From the very start, Psalm 107 offers a pretty significant reason to give thanks:

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1-2, ESV)

From here, the psalmist takes us into four different scenarios where God provides respite from some form of major calamity to the groups referenced in verse 3. It is how God’s assistance is garnered in these scenarios that strikes me as possibly the greatest reason of all to be thankful for “God’s enduring love.” All that we have to do to receive his enduring love is follow the example of the people in Psalm 107

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” (Psalms 107:6, 13, 19, 28, ESV)

psalm of thanksgiving2 350x196 - Cry Out for a Reason to be ThankfulIn their stubbornness, each of the four groups are pushed to the brink of disaster before they finally ask for God’s help. After reading Psalm 107 herself, my wife pointed out that people by nature are stubborn, and I have to agree. We often feel as though we have the power to take on everything that life can dish out, and we will not reach out for any type of assistance until things are so ugly that it seems that all hope is lost. It is in these times that we tend to finally succumb and cry out to God for his assistance.

It is his response in kind, where “He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed,” (Psalm 107:29) that we have a reason for giving thanks to the Lord. All that we have to do to be delivered from our distress is cry out – to accept that we are powerless over life and that only through Him can we find true salvation.

“Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” (Psalm 107:8, 107:15, 107:21, 107:31)

Thankful for God’s Enduring Love

Thanks for opening up another Riverwood blog post. Today, we continue our series for the month of November, looking at thanksgiving-themed Psalms. Today, Pastor Jeff Willis looks at Psalm 136. Enjoy as he leads us to consider God’s Enduring Love.

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“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

The most repeated verse in the Bible is a favorite of mine: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” It’s repeated forty-four times in the Bible! (Sometimes the wording is slightly different, and in twenty-six instances, just the last half is provided, usually because it’s being used as a refrain associated with the whole verse which was just offered.)

An example is Psalm 136, a great Psalm of Thanks and Praise to God. In it there are four times the Psalmist prays, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1, 2, 3, 26; each verse uses a different name for God).

Just like the Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray, so Psalm 136 teaches us how to give thanks and praise to God. It’s a little known psalm, perhaps because it’s a bit longer than most psalms and it’s focused on specific aspects of Israel’s history.

Psalm 136 begins and ends in the way that we ought to begin and end all that we do: by praising God for who He is (honoring His name and His character). In the middle we give thanks to God for what He does for us in creation, redemption, and daily provision (the three foundational ways that God relates to us). The Psalmist is modeling for us the basic ways of showing our appreciation and admiration for the Lord.

Psalm 136 in Miniature

gods enduring love2 350x196 - Thankful for God's Enduring LovePutting together each of the five key verses of Psalm 136 makes a wonderful Psalm of Thanks and Praise in miniature. It’s easy to memorize! Then we can pray or sing it to the Lord anytime.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever. (Verses 1-3)
Give thanks to the Lord for he creates wonders. His love endures forever. (Verses 4-9)
Give thanks to the Lord for he delivers us. His love endures forever. (Verses 10-24)
Give thanks to the Lord for he gives us food each day. His love endures forever. (Verse 25)
Give thanks to the God of the Heavens for he is good. His love endures forever. (Verse 26)

Creating your own Thanks and Praise

The Psalms are for us to pray and sing. They are also models to teach us to offer our own personal prayers and songs. Psalm 136 is perfect for this. You can do this in your private devotions or it’s even better to share it with a friend or small group, or as a family.

Each of the verses above can easily be personalized for you to offer your own expression of thanks or praise to God in the same manner as Psalm 136. The prayer starters below will help you. I have chosen a different name for God to fit each prayer, but feel free to address God by any one of His other names too.

Dear Lord God, I admire that you are ________.
Dear God, my Creator, I appreciate the beauty of your creation in _________.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for delivering me from __________.
Dear Father, thank you for providing me with ___________.
Dear God of the Heavens, I admire that you are __________.

So I encourage you to use Psalm 136 as a guide for prayer and worship to help you give thanks and praise to God for his enduring love.