This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:10-12 TNIV).

There was a time, before Television (BT), when families in the US would gather in their living rooms and listen to radio dramas. "One Man's Family," "Fibber Magee and Molly," "Groucho Marx," and "Burns and Allen," were just a few. One of the favorites was "The Jack Benny Program."

Jack Benny eventually made the transition to television as one of America's most popular comedians. His on-air persona presented him as a penny-pinching skinflint who would sooner die than part with a dollar. Yet in real life, his character was anything but — the flesh and blood Jack Benny was a generous and kind man who treasured his friends, gave generously to charities, and dearly loved his wife.

Jack Benny (real name Benjamin Kubelsky) was married to Sayde Marks (better known as Mary Livingstone, the character she played on her husband's radio show) for 48 years. Their marriage was far from perfect. She was a quick-witted, high-maintenance, and a demanding woman. He was a bit of a philanderer.

After his death, Sayde claimed Benny's signature gesture of holding one hand to the side of his face came about from his attempting to conceal scratch marks she inflicted after she caught him on the phone with one of his female admirers.

Yet despite their shortcomings and imperfections, Jack loved his wife and wanted her to know his love would last a lifetime and beyond. For years, Sayde had received a long-stemmed red rose everyday. Then, even after Jack died in December of 1974, she continued to receive a rose.

When she called to remind the florist of her husband's death, she learned that Jack had included a provision for the flowers in his will. One red rose was to be delivered to Sadye every day for the rest of her life.

Sayde passed away nine years later. Nothing could stop Jack's love.

Too many of us have grown jaded and shallow in our love. We are often trapped in ledger sheet giving instead of genuine loving. You do this and I will repay you by doing that. Somewhere in the back of your mind, are you keeping track of giving and receiving, making sure to keep everything balanced?

You can see this ledger sheet giving this time of the year. You give me a present worth $100 and I must give something of equal value. That kind of giving robs us of the joy. It's void of spirit. We give, but there is something empty in the experience. Why do we put up with it?

Do you really believe it?
So don't.

God has shown us how to give beyond the ledger sheet ... to break the mold ... to be an outrageous, unexpected giver who loves people just the way they are.

Giving up the ledger sheet habit is not easy, but it can be done. God has shown you how; he pioneered the way. He gave first! If you have unwrapped the gift of his love, you are a new version of what you used to be. Call it version 2.0. You now have an outrageous giver inside you, a generous and grateful reflection of his gift to you.

Remember, he still loves you just the way you are, now it's your turn!

Do you believe it?

Do you really believe it?

Tis' the season! So live as if you believe it!