The Season of Giving

by Dr. Mel Tavares

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 (NIV)

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is rooted in the wise men bestowing gifts upon Jesus. For many, the season of giving equates to gift-giving to family, friends, and neighbors. 

Giving during the holidays goes beyond family and friends as community and global organizations provide ways for us to give to those outside of our immediate circle. As Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than receive.

When my children were little, they understood they could not make a wish list until we had gone out and shopped, and each of them had filled a shoebox for recipients worldwide (through Operation Christmas Child). Although my children are no longer in my home, I still start the season of giving by filling shoeboxes. I also buy coats for veterans, serve dinner at the soup kitchen, and write cards for nursing home residents.

Here are some ideas of additional ways to give to those in need:
*Donate to a food pantry
*Buy or make gifts for service providers (e.g., your mail carrier)
*Pay for a stranger’s coffee
*Christmas carol through the neighborhood
*Sign Christmas cards and take them to first responders in your community
*Bring a hot drink to a Salvation Army bell ringer
*Donate new toys or crayons/coloring books to a children’s hospital, or gift cards for parents

Giving goes well beyond gift giving. The holidays are the perfect time of the year to be the hands and feet of Jesus, who set the example for us by giving of himself daily. He fed people, met all types of needs, prayed for strangers, and had compassion toward those in distress.

We live in a time when fewer children and young adults know about Jesus and the reason He came to earth in the form of a baby. Today’s families do not adhere to the traditional values of going to church on Sunday and living a Christian life throughout the week. Therefore, we could take the opportunity to invite unbelievers to special Christmas programs associated with our churches, where they will hear about the best gift of all.

At this time of the year, we could also take advantage of other opportunities: standing in a checkout line, attending a holiday event, or admiring a neighbor’s yard decorations. These all lend themselves to our directing a conversation toward the “reason for the season.” People tend to be more open to accepting what we might offer them during the holiday season, including the good news of Jesus Christ.

This article brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Mel Tavares is an accomplished writer and speaker/teacher, both in ministry and in her career. She is passionate about encouraging and teaching writers. Her target market is women who are hurting and in need of Biblical hope. In addition to ghost writing and authoring her own books, Mel is a contributing author to several books, including the recently released DaySpring “Sweet Tea for the Soul: Comfort for Grieving Hearts.”  She writes for several online Christian communities, teaches classes online, conducts Facebook Live series, and is a podcast guest as opportunities arise. She is a wife, mom to seven, and grandma to ten.

Join the conversation. Have you found an opportunity to be the hands of Jesus this season?

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The Still Voice Above the Noise

by Dr. Mel Tavares

 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:4 NIV

God speaks to people every day and desires every one of us to hear Him. There is no magic formula to hearing His voice. He speaks in many ways, including in our mind, through chapters we read in the Bible, and through conversations with other people. Sometimes He speaks through dreams or visions. Our problem is that we live in a noisy world and are often too busy to listen, or haven’t developed the ability to recognize His voice.

God Speaks to Our Mind
God speaks to our mind, but we may interpret His voice as a thought of our own, because we don’t recognize His voice. Although some people report hearing an audible voice of God, more often it will be a ‘still, small voice’ we will hear. He desires to communicate with us throughout our days, much the same as if we were communicating with a friend or spouse. When we read the Bible or pray, thoughts will enter our mind. The more connected we are to Him, conversing throughout the day, the more easily we will recognize when He is talking to us.

God Speaks to Us Through Others
God uses other Christians to speak to us. We may have been seeking an answer from God about a specific situation and later converse with another Christian. We might bring up the situation and the other person will give wise counsel. Or we might randomly bring up a Bible verse or a life principle in conversation that supplies the exact answer you were looking for. Rest assured; it was no coincidence. It is God providing the answer for you if you have an ear to hear.

God Speaks to Us Through Circumstances
There are times when God uses dramatic means to get our attention. If we are not in close communication with Him and not listening for His voice, God might speak to us through financial insecurities, housing insecurities, employment struggles, relational problems, and other trials. How often do we cry out to God when we encounter hard times? It is during a crisis that many open their ears, desperate to hear from God if only to get the answer to “Why is this happening?”

The Importance of Hearing God Speak
The importance of recognizing God’s voice cannot be overstated. We must learn to hear God’s voice if we want answers to your questions and prayers. He can and does speak to us but we must recognize His voice and discern that it is God, not Satan, or our own thoughts, or the well-meaning input of strangers.

Just one word from God can change everything. Sometimes it is one word, sometimes it is an ongoing conversation that God has with us. The important thing is that we don’t miss His voice. The voice of God speaking can transform our marriages, give us financial direction, speak to our illness and heal our disease, or give insight into a complex situation at our jobs. 

I pray you will recognize the voice of your shepherd, and that He will give you answers, direction, and guidance each day that you need.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Mel Tavares is an accomplished writer and speaker/teacher, both in ministry and in her career. She is passionate about encouraging and teaching writers. Her target market is women who are hurting and in need of Biblical hope. In addition to ghost writing and authoring her own books, Mel is a contributing author to several books, including the recently released DaySpring “Sweet Tea for the Soul: Comfort for Grieving Hearts.”  She writes for several online Christian communities, teaches classes online, conducts Facebook Live series, and is a podcast guest as opportunities arise. She is a wife, mom to seven, and grandma to ten.

Join the conversation: Have you heard from God lately?