Archives for posts with tag: gift

Have you ever owned anything you really couldn’t afford?  Maybe you’ve bought a fixer-upper house (or any house) and found that no matter how much time and money you pour into it, there’s always something else to fix or replace.  Or maybe you’ve bought a classic car, intending to restore it to its former glory, and everything you do just leads to something else that needs to be done.  We invest so much into maintaining and improving our investments, sometimes we wonder if they are worth what they cost.

Perhaps you’ve received a gift you couldn’t afford.  Has a well-meaning friend or relative given your child a puppy or kitten, thinking only about how much the child would enjoy the pet and not about how much time and money you will have to spend feeding and caring for it?  Or maybe someone has given you an expensive family heirloom, and over the years you have had to move it, find a place for it, dust it, insure it.  Sometimes a gift can be a burden.

When we consider the gift of salvation that God has offered us, we surely experience joy and gratitude.  This is truly a gift that we cannot afford; yet, it is a gift that we must accept if we are to embrace life and overcome death.  God’s grace is freely given:  it cannot be earned or bought and, just as importantly, it cannot be returned or lost.  It is the gift we celebrate at Christmas by giving presents to one another.  It is the babe in the manger, the offerings of the magi, the miracle of God becoming human and living among us.  It is the wonder of a young girl who gave her own life, her plans and her future, to God to use as He pleased.  How many of us would make such a sacrifice?

If you have children, you have probably heard them say, “I wish it could be Christmas every day!”  Indeed, we are urged to keep Christmas in our hearts all year.  Doing so might make us happier, more generous, more loving people.  But as followers of Jesus, isn’t it even more important to keep Easter ever in our hearts?  The love of God demonstrated by the incarnate Word is a complex love.  It is generous, kind, compassionate, and joyful.  It is also sacrificial, demanding, and loaded with expectation.  It is the warmth of a stable full of animals making quiet sounds over a newborn baby dozing in the protective arms of his mother.  It is the agony and solitude of the cross and the bitter chill of a tomb.  It is the impossible truth of a risen Lord.

angel-prayers public domain

What does it mean to keep Easter all year long?  To me, Resurrection Sunday is like New Year’s Day.  It is a new beginning for everyone who has accepted this incredible gift of salvation.  It is a day of ecstatic joy preceded by three days of darkness, mourning, and despair.  We would do well not to forget those days of hopelessness because they remind us of the despair Jesus felt on the cross as first his friends and then his Father turned away from him.  Christmas is God’s perfect love poured out on creation; Easter is God’s pure love tempered by sacrifice.  It is love that through the tormenting fire of ridicule, abandonment, cowardice, selfishness, abuse, jealousy, hatred, and murder became . . . grace.

How can we respond to such a gift?  Saying “thank you” is a start, but it’s not enough.  Unless our hearts are changed by this extravagant grace, God’s love is wasted on us.  When we are tempted to be proud of our new status in Christ, we might remember that he, not we, paid the price for it.  When we are provoked to righteous indignation, we might consider the many accounts in scripture of his dealings with provokers and respond the way he did, with quiet confidence.  When we are angry, we might remember how an act of sacrificial love was what it took to satisfy the wrath of God, and we might offer love instead of a clever word or hurtful retort.  When we see those in need, we can reach out beyond our own small circles and offer help.  When we don’t know what else to do, we can love.  And if love costs us something, we can be grateful for the opportunity to make the sacrifice.  It is so little compared to what we have been given.

We must keep Easter in our hearts always, lest we forget that the babe in the manger was also the lamb on the altar.

This past Sunday, the message given by one of our pastors focused on what Jesus said to one of the people interested in Christ’s teaching.  What Jesus told him he had to do was puzzling.  He had to be “born again.”  Now how could that happen, since you can’t crawl back into your mother’s womb?

That question sparked a thought which took me further down the road with the scripture.  What would it mean to be a baby again?

It means I’d be totally helpless.  I couldn’t feed myself.  Clothe or even wrap myself for warmth.  I couldn’t get a drink of water, and actually at the moment of birth I wouldn’t even know “how” to drink…newly birthed children need to be taught how to suckle and swallow.  I couldn’t even turn myself over, let alone crawl or walk.

In fact, a baby does not live long if left all alone.  If I were a baby once again, I’d need lots and lots of support and care.

God’s Word gives us a pretty accurate picture of what it means to be that newborn in the Kingdom.  As a new baby, we have the Words of God to feed us: 1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

And we get a special water to drink, too:  John 4:14 tells us that Jesus explained “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Our ability to have something to wear comes from God too.  Because we know Matthew 6:28 & 29 tells us, “why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

And learning all we will need to know to get along doesn’t come from within our own mind.  God promises us, in John 14:26, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things.”

Also, just because you are born and a baby doesn’t mean you know how to sustain your world.  In fact, your very existence originated not from you, but your parents.  You were created by others and your continuance in life as a babe (or babe in Christ) comes from God.  Colossians 1:16 tells us that “by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible… All things were created through Him and for Him.”

And even though you have an awesome spiritual teacher, you have no power of your own to keep breathing, thinking and moving.  Verse 17 in that same chapter of Colossians continues, “and he holds all creation together.”

So, back to that original train of thought, of being born AGAIN.  In order to understand what spiritual life means, I must be a baby in God’s hands.  A baby in order to know the Truth.

NOT a scholar.

NOT a saint.

NOT a rich person.

NOT a philosopher.

NOT a teacher.

NOT a great athlete.

I have GOT to be a baby.   I have GOT to acknowledge I didn’t–could not–create myself.  And I can do nothing to make myself live and grow.  My entire being and existence comes from God…and it is a gift.

Ephesians 2:8

“For by (God’s) grace you have been saved through faith, and that is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

HAPPY EASTER!

by Cindy Best

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