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The Power of a Gift

Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”

Gifts. We all love them. We love do-dads and widgets and practical things and things to eat – it doesn’t matter; we love gifts!

But as I was reading in my Bible yesterday, God laid it on my heart to further explore the word “gift”. 

Here in Ephesians, the word for “gift” means a sacrificial present. In other words, the gift cost something extreme. We all know that that cost for salvation was – God’s One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. 

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here, the word for “gift” means a spiritual endowment. An endowment is something given without expectation of return in payment but does come with the expectation that the receiver will utilize and work with what is given for a determined end. You receive wages for the work that you do. You receive an endowment with the expectation that work will follow to accomplish some goal. Death is the wages for working at a sinful life without Christ. Eternal life is the expected outcome from the free gift of salvation. 

The free gift of salvation is not something to put on a shelf and look at from time to time. No, the free gift of salvation should be seen more in the light of receiving a major appliance as a gift. When someone you know gives you a stove as a gift, you don’t put it in your kitchen and look at it. You use it. You feed your family with it. You make food for others on it. You provide comfort and assurity with it. Looking at it gets nothing done. Looking at our salvation does nothing to advance the will of God that all men should come to Him for salvation and thus eternal life. We need to use it. We need to share its’ blessings. We need to tell other people how to receive such a magnificent gift. 

So today, get out there and share your gift. It wasn’t given to you to make you look pretty. It wasn’t given to you to beat someone over the head with it. It was given to you to multiple and grow. It was given to you to bring others to Him. Be nice – share. 

Lose the shoes

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

We went to the movies this weekend. In one of the new movies coming out, there is a girl that wears these large, heavy shoes. When she removes them, she levitates. (I know. Weird. But roll with me for a minute.)

It made me think – we all walk around with these big, bulky, heavy shoes. We call these shoes sin. These shoes are dirty and nasty and they hold us down. They keep us from mounting up on eagles wings. 

These shoes are made out of lies that we tell ourself. Lies like we aren’t good enough. Lies like “you might offend someone.” Lies like “no one cares.” 

They are also made out of anger. Anger that keeps us from mending fences. Anger that makes us spout off hurtful words. 

They are also made out of pride. Pride that keeps us from admitting when we have made a bad choice. Pride that says we are better than someone else. 

They are made out of many more things that keep us tied to this earth and drag us through the mud. Those shoes are hurtful and unattractive, yet we wear them around like we have no other choice. 

But we do. We have the opportunity to break free of those pesky shoes and fly. Now, we can’t be perfect and sinless, at least not yet, but we can be holy and righteous. Jesus told us that if we would follow after Him and obey His commandments that we can live right before Him. That is soaring. That is real living. 

But we cannot take off the shoes on our own. For some reason, we inherently like them way too much. Jesus is the only One that can remove the shoes. When He humbled Himself at Calvary, He loosened the shoes from our feet. He broke the bondage they create. He gave us the opportunity to soar with Him. 

We all have the shoes (Romans 3:23 – ” For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”). No one can escape it on their own (Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”). It is a gift that Jesus loosens the shoes. You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. All you can do is accept the free gift that is offered. It is the ONLY thing in life that is truly free. 

My challenge to you this week is to accept the gift and let Him loosen your shoes. They are ugly and yucky and will ever help you soar. Jesus wants you to fly. He wants you mount up on wings with eagles. But to do that, you have to lose the shoes.  

Through His eyes

Ezekiel 14:23 – “And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.”

At some point or another, we have all wished to see things through someone else’s eyes. We were watching a movie the other day where adults were able to see what this child was seeing to try and discern what he was thinking. Scary concept, great idea. But we can’t see or know what someone else is seeing and thinking. 

But God can. He knows what is going on in that brain of yours right now. He knows what you are seeing. He knows what you are feeling. He knows why you are feeling the way you do and why you are thinking the things you are thinking. It’s not an invasion of privacy, but rather it is the privilege of the Creator. And it’s helpful to boot! 

Because He sees and knows all that we think and do, He doesn’t act randomly in our life. Everything has purpose and meaning. God calls us to do certain things in our life for a reason. We may never know it, but He does. 

It’s VBS time and I have been reading our lessons. There are some really good lessons this year! 

One line that I read in relation to this verse was this – “God always calls is to do what we would want to do if we could see what God sees.” You have to read that line a few times to get it to sink in – it’s deep, but man, is it good! 

We can’t see what God sees. We just have to trust Him and trust what He says through His word. We have to trust that He has a plan and we are blessed enough to be involved. That, my friend, is the basis of courage. You can’t have it without knowing that there is plan even if you don’t know it. 

We are afraid of the unknown. But we can face the unknown if we know that Someone can see it and He has a plan for it. There is comfort in knowing that God sees all. There is courage in knowing that He has a plan. There are blessings in accepting that He has chosen to involve us in it. 

So even though we will never be able to see things through God’s eyes, we can have confidence that because He sees through our eyes, He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. And we know that He has a plan. We just need to pray for the courage to play it out. 

Being braveĀ 

Esther 4:13-16 – ” Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It was the first recorded beauty pageant, and the thought of a year of spa days makes me swoon! 

But here, Esther is called upon to be one of the bravest women in the nation. Her people are in grave danger. A very angry man has convinced the king to kill all the Jews on a set date. Esther is the only one who can physically intervene for the entire nation of Israel. Esther’s uncle implores her to take a stand. He is confident that if she chooses not to follow through with the request that God will provide from another source, but he knows that if she will submit to God, that the nation will be saved. But Esther has to get way outside of her comfort zone and stand before the king. To do this without being summoned could mean death, but it is a risk Esther is willing to take. 

Now, Esther didn’t just decide this and then march into the king’s court. No, she asked for prayer support. She asked her uncle and the entire city to fast and pray for her for three days. 

Here’s what I want to get out of these verses – 1.  Life requires that you take risks sometimes. Be aware of when those moments come. 2. And when they do come, prayerfully consider them. Don’t just bull rush the situation. Slow down. Get some prayer help. Seek wise counsel. 3. Be brave when facing those risks. You plus God equals an unstoppable force. But don’t let that fact make you prideful. Let it humble you to know that without Him, you are a hot mess. 

I can’t imagine the fear Esther had to overcome in this situation. Her stomach must have been in all sorts of knots while she was awaiting the king’s approval. Yet, she knew that God was with her and she was ready to do whatever He commanded her, even if it meant losing her life. 

How about you? Are you ready to follow God into the great unknown and face your fears and trust in Him alone? Sounds scary, right? Sounds like a daunting tasks that requires a lot of effort. It is. However, God never promised us an easy life full of spa days. But He did promise to walk beside us every day to help us face every challenge and every fear with a power far beyond what we can comprehend. 

Lessons from running

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

I try to run. I’m not fast. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I can go long distances. But I attempt to move myself down the road at a pretty good clip about 2-3 times per week. And I enjoy it. It gives me time to think and pray and listen to my music. I like the way that it makes me feel. I like smelling the flowers and the trees and seeing the beauty of God’s creation when I run. 

Yesterday, I tried to push myself a little – start just a little earlier, go just a bit farther before turning around and then stretch out my stopping point by a few feet. No large gains but I thought my body was going to crash before I got to my stopping place. I’m tearing down this trail with the end in sight praying, “Come on God! We gotta do this! I need to do this! Get me there I pray!” And I did. And I felt amazing. And I’m sure Jesus was up in Heaven smiling because He knew that I needed to prove to myself that it can be done. 

The whole experience made me think about the life lessons I have learned from “running”.

  1. Start with an end in sight. I have learned that if I have a destination in mind and I set my mind to that endpoint, I can coach myself to get there, usually. The same is true in life. I need to remember, each and every day, why I am doing what I am doing – I’m doing my part to advance the Kingdom of God so that no one dies and goes to Hell. And some days, I have to coach myself on that endpoint. The Holy Spirit reminds me to keep going for this very cause. 
  2. Know when it’s time to turn around. I need to know when it’s time to go back. Sometimes I get going on things and forget what I’m doing. That’s when I find myself in a big mess. I didn’t turn around in time. Sometimes I will get going on something spiritual and then end up messing the whole attitude of it up because of sin. 
  3. Keep your eyes on the prize. Yesterday when I was running, I knew my endpoint. And I must have looked like a crazy person mouthing to myself, “Come on. You can do it. One more curve and you will be able to see the end. Come on.” That was the longest curve in the history of mankind. But I knew if I could just see that stop sign that life would be so much better. I knew that the stop sign meant more to me than the people that put it there intended. It meant that my run was over. When I am running through life, I have to keep my eyes on the prize – Jesus saying with open arm, “Well done, Melissa! Welcome home!”

When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, I dare say that he never dreamed that people would be running just for the exercise benefit. But he knew that exercise is important to the body. He also knew that spiritual exercise was good for the soul. This is the type of exercise that he was encouraging the Corinthians to participate in. 

If you want a muscle to get stronger, you have to do exercises that will create tiny tears in the fibers. Those tears are addressed by the body and become stronger because the body builds them up. The muscle fibers come out stronger and ready to take on more. 

The same is true in our spiritual life. We have to go through tough times and tear those spiritual fibers just a bit to make them stronger. But just like we can’t make our muscle fibers stronger on our own, we can’t make our spiritual fibers stronger. We have to rely upon God to make both stronger. And in both instances, those fibers can’t be torn too much. It requires just the right amount of stress to create the necessary scenario for growth in strength. And only God knows what that scenario is – He created our spiritual and physical fibers. 

Let me encourage you to be aware of growth in your life. Take these little lessons from running and try to apply them to your scenario. But no matter what, make sure that you are allowing God to direct the scene and let Him encourage you to keep on going. He has the prize in His hand. 

Spontaneous Praise

John 12:12,13 – “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

When was the last time you did something spontaneous? I mean, totally and completely out of the blue?

I remember one day, my kids and I were sitting in the allergist’s office waiting for something when this little boy broke out into dance. I mean, no music was playing. No one was humming. No sound except hushed speaking. And here was this little three to four year old tearing up his own dance floor. It was hysterical! And when he saw that others were watching, he stopped. He was afraid someone was laughing at him. And we were, but not for the reason he thought. I was enjoying his spontaneity and spunk. 

In the passage today, people had gathered at Jerusalem for the beginning of Passover. And here comes Jesus. All they could do was spontaneously praise Him. Jesus had even said that if they stopped that the rocks would cry out. Now, wouldn’t that be something? Yet, these people were filled with spontaneous praise to the Savior. How awesome is that!

But how often do we squash that moment of spontaneous praise in our own life? How many times are we just like the little boy and look around and become embarrassed that someone might be watching, might be judging? Shouldn’t we praise Him anyway? What would happen if the praise due God was neglected by us and all of the sudden the rocks started praising God? Would that get our attention? Would that make us stand up and praise Him?

I want to challenge you today to look for any and all opportunities to praise Him, even the smallest of the small things. Maybe you are hungry for eggs and you thought you were out but you look anyway and find just enough to have a yummy bowl of scrambled eggs. Praise Him! He knew you would want them and needed them. Praise Him for providing. Maybe you are rushing out the door and find yourself five minutes late only to discover that if you had been five minutes earlier you could have been in an accident. Praise Him! He kept you from an accident just by creating a little havoc at home. And tell others. That is the key. Let everyone you come in contact with know what He has done for you today. Yes, it will seem awkward at first but you will get over it. Doesn’t He deserve your praise no matter what?

Spontaneous praise is an action we need to be more familiar with. It should be something that we incorporate into every breath. You see, He is worthy, and we neglect to recognize that beautiful fact more often than not. So, let today be a new day. Let today be the day it all changes and you beat the rocks! Don’t let them praise Him before you do!

The Airport

1 Corinthians 15:45 – “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

Yep, I’m at the airport. We are on our way to Kauai. We are taking the whole family to visit this tropical island for our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. We are so excited!

So as I’m sitting here admiring all the colors of the rainbow both in skin and hair color, I can’t help but remember that all these people came from two people – Adam and Eve. All of them. All however many billion of them! I know, I think about weird and crazy stuff like that. But truly, I wonder if all these people ever stop and consider these things. But more importantly, do they stop and consider the “last Adam”? 

One would think that it would be so easy to share the Gospel with all these people, but it’s not so easy. All these people are carrying around baggage, both literally and figuratively. All these people are carrying around all these preconceived ideas of Jesus. Some are true, some are false. Some think that He was just a man. Some think that He was a prophet. But there are some that see Him as the True Son of God. 

It is our challenge to share Him as He truly is with everyone we come in contact with. So, the question is will I share Him with the person I sit next to on the plane? Will you share Him with the person in the checkout line? Will you share Him with the mailman or the UPS man who comes to your door today?

Every day is a challenge. Every day is an opportunity to share Him and bring another fellow sinner into the Kingdom. You see, we are no better than anyone else. But we are a Child of the King. And that, friend, is something worth sharing.