Tag Archives: Gift

A Gift for You

​A tree was planted in Israel in memory of my wife.  The words get blurry as I type that…  I received a notice in the mail about that wonderful gift and stood, transfixed, as I tried to imagine what sort of tree and where it was planted.  Then, who would one day find shade beneath it.  These days my mailbox is almost entirely stuffed with junk mail.  But that gift notice was a precious exception.

Here’s a gift notice for you, if you would like to have it.  It’s for everyone who follows Jesus in faith.  It’s not very long, but warrants spending a bit of time trying to imagine all the what, when and where implications.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.  (2 John 1:3)

Toss the envelope if you want, but hang on to the gift tag.  You’ll want to go back and reread it from time to time…

For His Good Pleasure

My son was at the age when he knew so much more than his dad, and his interests were far more exciting to his way of thinking than all the boring stuff the old folks were into.  Remember those days?  I asked him, “I saw a movie I think you might really like; you want to check it out?”  You can imagine all the rolling of eyes and protestations…  But he finally agreed to give it 15 minutes.  If he wasn’t into it by then we’d stop it.  Two hours later, he was wanting to watch it over again.  Score one for Dad.  Because I knew how much he would like it (the movie was “Once”), waiting to show it to him was a time of happy anticipation for me. 

Jesus said these intriguing words:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32)

As God waits for us to accept His gift, I imagine His happy anticipation, thinking to Himself, “They’re going to really like this…”   And yet, when we hear about it, we react like adolescents, thinking, “Oh, that would be so boring.” 

But consider your own experiences with government: Been to the DMV lately?  How has the IRS been treating you?   How would you like to be a citizen of a kingdom, in which the King loved you as His own child, a King Who was perfect in righteousness and justice?  A King Who already knew everything you needed?  That’s the Kingdom God wants to give you.  Why?  It is for His good pleasure! 

The Costliest Gift

Hammacher Schlemmer offers a slot car race track for $125,000!  I wonder who will be getting one of those for Christmas.  What is the most extravagant gift you have ever received?  How about the most extravagant gift you have ever given?  What did it cost?

Chances are pretty good that you have a Christmas card, sitting in the pile, that contains these words:

“For to us a child is born…” (Isaiah 9:6a)

The hope and joy expressed in those prophetic words make them a favorite for the makers of Christmas cards.  Isaiah knew Who was coming and wrote those words 700 years before they came to pass.  But the familiarity of those words might obscure the angst of the next phrase:

“…to us a son is given…”    (Isaiah 9:6b)

Brand new parents are fun to watch because they barely touch the ground.  They radiate joy and excitement and intense possibility.  But, as I remember well, a new father becomes instantly protective in a fierce way.  He is possessed by an instinctive and powerful readiness.   It’s like a one man Secret Service detail.  I cannot imagine what it would take to willingly give a newborn son.  The young mothers who give up their newborn babies for adoption, do so at unspeakable cost.  I honor them as heroes.  Perhaps they, more than any other, know how to read this phrase:

“…to us a son is given…”

The Father gave His only Son – gave Him to you and me – knowing from eternity past how that Gift would be eventually rejected and mistreated.  Amazing love…

“…to us a son is given…”   

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Source of Power in Faith

There is a commonly held, new-age idea that belief – belief in anything – in and of itself, does powerful, good things for you.  Sounds nice, but it is nonsense.  A buddy of mine believed he was a magpie (Ahh, yes — remember the 70’s?).  His belief was confusing but it was not powerful.  But there is something powerful going on when God uses faith to interact and connect to humans  (See: “Loud and Clear”).  But how is that faith any different?  Where does the power come from?  Faith is a necessary ingredient, but it doesn’t do the work.  God does.

It’s sort of like this: If I want to start using Facebook, I can’t just do it because my computer is not automatically equipped for it. First, I have to ask the folks at Facebook to send me a download of software or an “App.”  I receive it, install it, and then my computer is enabled to make that connection. Something similar goes on when God connects to people by faith.  It is a powerful something, something that is rarely explained, even by Christians.

Before any connection to God is made by faith, a “download” is necessary.  But it isn’t software God gives you, it is something alive – Someone alive –  the Holy Spirit.  God comes and lives in you, by His Holy Spirit.  Really!   It starts when someone has an “Aha!” moment of understanding that Jesus is God, Who has come to us in understandable human form (See: “One Plus Two Equals One”).  When a person crosses that threshold of faith, their natural response is to want to draw closer to God, to communicate with Him.  God connects interactively with people who believe like that.   But it isn’t the act of believing that makes the connection happen.  It’s the “download” from God, the Gift from God that powers it up. Here’s how Jesus said it.

 “If you [really believe in Me] I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  (John 14:15b -17 – with my added clarification )

This is the key. This is how and why  faith connects us.  God gives us His Spirit and by that Spirit, He lives within us. Really!  It’s so fantastic, so unexpected, that Jesus practically stood on His head to explain it.  He said:

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  (John 14:19-20)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  (John 14:23)

 

This process of receiving  (downloading and installing!) the Holy Spirit is so crucial, that, after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Spirit before they tried to do anything.

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…   But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”  (Excerpts from Acts 1:4-8]

When God gives His Spirit, as a response to faith, and therefore lives in a human soul, that soul becomes alive in a powerfully new and full way.  God’s Spirit is “born” in him or her.  That is why Jesus told a religious teacher he must be “born from on above” (commonly translated as “born again” – John 3:1-3).  He said that physical birth is not enough for complete life, for truly connecting to God:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  (John 3:5-7)

It starts with faith.  Faith is how we reach out to God to receive His Spirit.  But God’s Spirit makes the connection and brings the new life.  Therein is the astonishing power in faith.