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When Gifts Become Obsessions

To my wife’s chagrin, I’m an avid sports fan. It doesn’t matter what season we’re in and who’s playing, I’m always catching as many games as I can and checking my ESPN app for the latest news. My aunt does that with the weather.

We all have our “thing” we enjoy . . . which some of us might enjoy a bit too much. I’m speaking to myself. One of my fallback verses in the Bible is James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” But every good and perfect gift can also become bad and imperfect based on how we use it.

If I give you a new MacBook Pro for your birthday, you can use it properly, or you can use it to drive nails into the wall. Misusing the gift is an abuse of its purpose, and it damages our relationship with the gift giver.

Likewise, if God has given the gift of healthy competition and athleticism, enjoy the blessing, but don’t abuse it. If God has given the gift of meteorology, enjoy it, but don’t become obsessed with it. If God has given you the gift of friendship, marriage, children, or a good job, be grateful, but don’t make it the center of your life.

Your gifts were never meant to be your obsession. Your gifts are an extension of the grace and love of the Giver, Jesus Christ. When I place my gifts or the enjoyment of the gift of others front and center in my life, I am distorting the gifts and denying the Giver. I have shifted my source of fulfillment from the endless supply of God’s grace to the limited supply of a temporal gift. And my thirst will never be quenched.

This is why sports fans turn into sports fanatics and weather inquirers turn into weather worriers. Love and sex are beautiful gifts from God that become profane through misuse and distortion. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is because the Giver has been replaced with the gift.

Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), and he loves nothing more than taking that which is good and deforming it into a hollow image of that goodness. Satan is the thief who only comes to steal, kill and destroy, whereas Jesus brings the gift of abundant life (John 10:10). If Satan can get us mesmerized with the good and perfect gift, we lose sight of the Giver, the Father of the heavenly lights. It’s a strategy as old as the Garden of Eden.

My challenge to you is that whatever gifts you enjoy—the beauty of snow, a stunning sunset, a delicious meal with a glass of wine, ESPN, or the Weather Channel—may they increase your love and devotion for the One who brought you those gifts in the first place.

“[God] himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Stop Being Petty – 4 Steps to Overcoming Negative Reactions

Do you ever find yourself getting angry over the small stuff? The other day Laura said something to me that I didn’t like, and I got defensive, reactionary, and angry. And all she did was ask me to empty the dishwasher. You’d think after 27 years of marriage, I would have learned that some things aren’t worth the fight.

Why do petty things set us off and move us toward passive-aggressive behavior? You know what I’m talking about. Your spouse or friend says something that bothers you, but you don’t say anything. And then they ask, “Hey, what’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “You sure?” “Yes.” “Did I offend you?” “No.” And then a day later you blow up at them for no reason at all. Passive at first, but aggressive later on.

Henri Nouwen, author of The Genesee Diary, is helping me learn how to respond to the small stuff. Keep the small stuff small. Don’t make a big deal about something so little. Here’s how:

First, if you start feeling angry about something, don’t suppress it, but address it. Try to step out of the moment and ask yourself these questions: Why am I getting so upset about this? Why is this event/situation hitting such a nerve? Don’t dismiss what you’re feeling, because dismissal leads to passivity and withdrawal. In other words, deal with what’s going on inside of you. Don’t just ignore it.

Second, talk about it with a trusted friend or mature believer. Talking about it requires you to formulate thoughts into words that can lead to a deeper awareness of what’s really going on. And then be still and listen. If you don’t deal with your anger over small issues, how will you be ready to address your emotions with a real crisis?

Third, discover productive ways to express what you are feeling. Give your emotions over to God. Spend more time in prayer. Meditate on Scripture to fill your mind with His Word rather than the negative, critical words of others. Take a long walk and concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply. Create margin in your daily schedule for more prayer, to be still, and to develop a heart of peace.

Fourth, on a deeper level, ask yourself how much your anger has to do with ego inflation. Nouwen writes, “Anger often reveals how you feel and think about yourself and how important you have made your own ideas and insight. When God becomes again the center and when you can put yourself with all your weaknesses in front of him, you might be able to take some distance and allow your anger to ebb away and pray again” (44).

When I get angry over the small stuff, I often realize there’s something else going on in my life. I’m not at peace. My heart is not fully aligned with the heart of God. I’m letting work get to me, or I’m stressed about finances. We can’t rid ourselves of life’s maladies, but we can develop a heart of peace in order to work through them. And this peace comes from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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