The Gift: On the Tree or Under the Tree

1379Of the many gifts that were given on Christmas day, the greatest was not the one that was under the tree.  It was the One who was born in the manger and would later hang on the tree–the cross of Calvary.

Jesus is the gift who, “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right (power) to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Notice the groups in the verses above:

  • Those who were naïve about their spiritual needs.
  • Those who would receive Him as Savior.
  • Those who could perceive the source of their right and power to become what God desires them to be.

Which of the three groups above best describe you?  When was the last time you took a spiritual inventory?  Are you claiming your right and power to live the life God has designed for you?

Have You Met The New You?

newuI have never found evidence of the long-sought after fountain of youth, but I do know that Paul wrote to the Ephesians about renewal:

If you have heard Jesus and have been taught by Him according to the truth that is in Him,  then you know to take off your former way of life, your crumpled old self—that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust— to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit.  Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy.                  ~Ephesians 2:21-24

Paul says you have the opportunity to get rid of the old, step into a new life, and take a fresh breath of life.  Spiritual renewal shapes you into the “likeness of God,” and you begin to realize that you are:

You’re not a crumpled model of this old world; you’ve been freshly fashioned in the likeness of Jesus, and this is why you:

Forget your former way of life, “that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust.”  Embrace the new you.  It’s time to “take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit.”

Today I Will

tattly_jen_mussari_today_is_the_day_web_design_01_grandeAs I was thumbing through one of my files, I found a quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  In September of 1999 Talk Magazine listed him as one of the 50 best speakers in the United States.

During a lecture on the power and often negative impact of words, Rabbi Telushkin said:  “If you cannot go for 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol.  If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine.  Similarly, if you cannot go for 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you’ve lost control of your tongue.”

Have you lost control of your tongue?  Compare your verbal characteristics to the verses below:

  • James 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
  • Proverbs 8:7-8”For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”
  • Psalm 10:7 “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.”
  • Psalm 71:8 “Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day.”
  • Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

As you think about what the good Rabbi said, and as you consider the Scripture above, I hope you’ll say:  “Today I will:

  • Slow down enough to consider how I speak to my precious family.  I will remember to thank God for each one of them. I will not curse them.  I will bless them.
  • Reflect the goodness of God and determine to be a conduit of His grace and love.
  • See the needs of others, and help bear the burden of those who are overloaded with grief, sorrow, or some trial.

Let me suggest that you use the words of the following Psalm as a prayer for today:  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

A Mind Full of Memories

2012-02-26-sandhillsOn Thursday night of this past week, I received a phone call about 10:30.  It was a call from my cousin:  “Hey Stan, I wanted you to know that Mom just died.”

I didn’t sleep much that night.  I kept thinking about my Aunt Ila.  I reminisced about my childhood days at Sallyards, and the Seymour gatherings at that white house bordered by railroad tracks on the South and surrounded by the captivating beauty of the Flint Hills.

My memories were of a time when both Ila and I were much younger.  As I thought of her, I remembered the sound of her joyful laugh, the infectious smile that lined her face, and the sparkle in her eyes.  Most of all, I remembered her kind gentle spirit and the warmth of her ever-present love.

As I thought about her love, I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul:

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! 

~Romans 8:38-39

I hope this verse convinces you, as it does me, that not even the princes of darkness can separate us from the love of God.

When you are stirred up and trampled down by the tragedy of death and the miles of trials you’ve walked in your life, why not take a peek at things from God’s perspective? God has a hold on you and He isn’t going to let you go.

Jesus said:   My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Are you “persuaded” by the words of Paul and convinced that there is no power on earth or below or heaven above that can separate you from the love of God?

I think Aunt Ila was convinced of this truth.  I think she could say:  “We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him (I John 4:16).”

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Whenever I look North of Highway 54 and my eyes see an empty and vacant pasture that used to be Sallyards, my mind is still full of memories.

One that remains and will always be cherished is the memory of Aunt Ila’s love.

These 3

these3Have you ever felt lower than a snake’s belly, or ever thought you were a vile roach who encroached on the grace of God? Think again—flip through the pages of the Bible and you’ll see you’re on the receiving end of God’s gifts.

• The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus—Romans 6:23
• Thanks to God for His unspeakable gift—2 Corinthians 9:15
• The gift of God—Ephesians 2:8-9
• Every good and perfect gift is from above—James 1:17

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of gifts in a different context. He said there are three that remain. Two of these, faith and hope, are great gifts, but it is the third gift, love, that Paul says is the greatest and reigns supreme.

Through faith we believe the unbelievable, and hope sustains us when everything seems hopeless. Love, however, is the gift that allows us to love the unlovable and pardon the unpardonable.

In I Thessalonians 1:3, Paul spoke of “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the strong correlation between these three gifts. John focused on it in I John 3:1-3:

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Think of these gifts within this context:
• Love is the foundation
• Faith is empowering belief
• Hope is the motivation to remain steadfast

There are cultures and societies that are void of Christ’s love, have little faith, and are all but void of hope. The empty tomb really does make all the difference in the world. Because Christ rose again we have faith, hope and love–and all three are gifts your gifts from God.