Saturday, November 30, 2019

What Gifts Will You Give Him?

Photo by Sigismund von Dobschütz 2007
During the Christmas season and always, have you considered what gifts you will give your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? What can we possibly give Him that could even come close to showing our appreciation for the greatest Gift ever given – God’s Son given that all who trust Him may have eternal life? (John 3:16)

His story proves that you can’t judge a gift from its wrappings. God the Father’s greatest gift to the world, His only begotten Son, destined to become the perfect sacrifice for all sins, and to return again to rule the universe in glory, was presented in a very humble way. He came as a helpless baby, born into a humble family, delivered in a lowly stable (Luke 2:7).

Just as the Wise Men of Christ’s day sought Him out and aimed to give Him their very best gifts (Matthew 2: 1-12), so do wise men and women of today seek Him and consecrate to Him their lives and the very best gifts they can offer.

You don't have to shop for these gifts, because He is the source of all good things (James 1:17). You won't have to go into debt over them, because you can't outgive God, and the more you give Him, the more blessings will flow back to you (Luke 6:38). They're always exactly what He would want and a perfect fit, as long as you're following His perfect will for your life. And you don't have to worry that they'll be returned -- you can be sure they will, as He gives back to you many times over all that you entrust to Him (1 Kings 17:10-16; John 6:5-13).

God judges our gifts to Him not on their greatness, because there is nothing that He needs from us. Anything we have is pitiful compared with His infinite wealth (Psalm 50: 7-12), and all that we have came from Him in the first place (James 1:17). Instead, He judges our motives, our willingness to trust all to Him, and the sacrificial nature of our gift (Luke 12:48; Luke 21:1-4). 

If He has blessed us with talents, material wealth, or other resources, He requires us to be a channel through whom blessings flow, because to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). But even if others do not consider us blessed in worldly terms, we can please God with our giving. When Jesus saw the poor widow throwing two mites into the treasury (Luke 21:1-4), He praised her more than all the others because she gave all that she had.

The absolute amount or greatness of the gift we give Him is not important, but what matters is how much of what we have we give back to Him. He is pleased with sacrificial giving because it shows our trust in Him, our faith that He will give back to us in abundance.

A sinful woman broke open a costly alabaster box containing precious ointment – possibly her inheritance or dowry -- that she used to anoint His Head. Jesus promised that this lavish gift would always be remembered in Scripture (Mark 14:3-9)

Elijah, prophet of God, followed God’s direction and asked a widow to give him her last morsel of food. When she did so in faith, God provided for her daily (1 Kings 17). God always honors His promises to those who trust Him in faith.

A similar story of God taking a seemingly small gift, multiplying and magnifying it to do great good, then giving back in abundance, is the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes (John 6:5), in which Jesus feeds a crowd of thousands with only a little boy’s lunch that he willingly gave. The disciples use the reasoning of men, not trusting in God’s supernatural ability to provide. 

But God wants us to demonstrate our faith – it is never a question of whether He is able, but of whether we have faith.  No one goes away hungry, and there are 12 baskets full of bread left over, which must have gone to the little boy to feed his family and no doubt his whole village.

In this season of gifts, may we always remember and thank the greatest Giver and Gift of all time. The best gift you could possibly give to anyone on your gift list is to share the Gospel with them! You can give it freely to everyone without taxing your budget; one size fits all; and they’ll never need to return or exchange it. Christ – the perfect Gift -- is truly All that anyone needs!

May we give Him what He has given us – our body, mind and spirit -- as a living sacrifice to His glory! 

© 2012 Laurie Collett (reposted from the archives)

No Ordinary Blog Hop

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Top Ten Thankful Thoughts

Photo by Ms Jones 2005

As Christians, we have so many blessings for which to thank God, not only at Thanksgiving but every day, that a list of only ten cannot even begin to describe it! Every good and perfect gift comes from God above (James 1:17), for the unsaved as well as for born-again believers (Matthew 5:45; John 3:3-8). The Psalms repeatedly echo what was first said in 1 Chronicles 16 (v. 34; 41): “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,29; 136:1,3). So let’s use this verse as a departure point! 
1.God is good. Only the Triune God (the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit) is good (Lamentations 3:25), meaning holy, without sin, righteous (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). Because He is good, He desires only the best for His children (Romans 8:16-17), meaning those who are saved by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Because He is righteous, God sees all who have trusted Him as righteous, for He has clothed us in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; Psalm 132:9). 
2. God is merciful (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Chronicles 6:14; Nehemiah 1:5; Psalm 52:8; 66:20; Micah 7:18; Luke 1:78; Romans 9:16; Ephesians 2:4; 1 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:21; etc.). It is great news that God is good, but it is also the worst possible news if we cannot meet His standard of holiness, and none can (Romans 3:23). Holy God cannot allow an unsaved sinner into Heaven, for that would defile Him. Because of His mercy, He does not give us what we deserve, which is eternal punishment in hell (Psalm 86:13). 
Instead, He loved us so much that He gave His Son (John 3:16) to pay the price in full for our sins, so that sinful man could be reconciled to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18). When God looks at born-again believers, He no longer sees our sins, but instead sees the perfect righteousness of His Son, which He has credited to our account. If we confess our sins, He forgives us (1 John 1:9), removing us from our sins as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). His mercies are new every morning (Psalm 59:16; Lamentations 3:22-23)
3. God is full of grace. His mercy spares us from what we deserve, and His grace, freely given as unmerited favor, gives us what we do not deserve – eternal life in Heaven with Him and with our loved ones who have trusted Him by faith (Ephesians 2:3-8). There is no good work we can do to earn our way to Heaven, for our attempts to be righteous on our own are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).   
While we look forward to eternal life in Heaven, He gives us abundant life here and now (John 10:10). His grace showers us with blessings every day (Ezekiel 34:26), grace upon grace. His grace is sufficient for us to endure trials (2 Corinthians 12:9) and empowers us to carry out the work He has appointed to us (1 Corinthians 15:10). 
4. God endures forever. He cannot change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), so we don’t have to worry about an unstable god wresting our promised future away from us. We are not gambling on the whim of some capricious god finding favor with us when we die, or judging that our good deeds outweigh the bad. We have the blessed, living hope and promise of the One True God, our Rock (1 Samuel 2:2; Matthew 16:18) and Fortress (Psalm 18:2), returning for His children to spend eternity with Him in Heaven (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3). 
There is nothing we, He, nor anyone or anything else can do to reverse that, to rob us of salvation once we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Romans 8:35-39). We did nothing to earn it, and nothing can ever remove it from us. He is faithful and true (Jeremiah 42:5; Revelation 3:14; 19:11), steadfast and constant (Daniel 6:26), always delivering on His promises (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13). 
5. God is love (1 John 4:8). Because God loves us, He not only saved us, but He always acts toward us out of love. We may not always understand His ways, just as a rebellious child does not always understand why a loving father slaps the hand that is reaching for the hot stove (Hebrews 12:6-11). But we can always trust that He is working all things together for those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He loves us infinitely, so He can’t love us any more, and we don’t have to work to earn His love. Similarly, He can’t love us any less, even when we rebel.  Because God is love, His Spirit in our heart teaches us to love and serve Him and one another, and our earthly relationships can thrive when motivated by love (John 13:34-35). 
6. God is all knowing and all powerful. Not only does God love us infinitely, but He has all wisdom about all things past, present and future (Psalm 139:1-6). He knows what is best for us, what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8,32), and what must be done to accomplish that. Is anything too hard for God? (Jeremiah 32:27) Can the One Who spoke the worlds into existence (Genesis 1), Who made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12), and Who parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21) be unable to do whatever is best for us? 
7. God is light. Once His Holy Spirit enters our heart at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13), His Word is a light to our path and a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105), showing us where to go, how to follow Him, and to understand His will and plan for our life. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), yet His light shining through us and reflecting from us allows us to be lights (Matthew 5:14), illuminating a dark and wicked world with His truth. 
8. God provides for all our needs. If God cares for the birds of the air and clothes the flowers in beautiful apparel (Luke 12:22-33), will He not provide for His children? We are the crown jewel of His creation (Genesis 1:26-27), made for His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5,9), and He will provide all we need to carry out the mission He has appointed to us (Philippians 4:14-19). If we seek Him first, and His righteousness, all other needs will be met (Matthew 6:33) – food, clothing, shelter, safety (Psalm 37:23-25). 
9. God gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). He provides not only for our basic needs, but for special blessings to enrich our life. These may not be financial or material, appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life, for these are of the world (1 John 2:16). Yet the beauty and majesty of His creation, freely available to all, is beyond measure (Genesis 1:31; Psalm 19:1). 
The spiritual blessings He gives us of peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and joy in Him (Psalm 21:1; 35:9; etc.) cannot be bought at any price, except for that of His shed blood on Calvary’s cross (Hebrews 9:22). How can we compare to any earthly treasure the joy of knowing that we will see our sisters and brothers in Christ once more and forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), never having to say goodbye; in glorified bodies without tears, pain, sickness, aging or death? (1 Corinthians 15:35-58
10. God has a plan for our life. Praise God, He has freed us from the bondage of sin, death and hell! Praise God, we are no longer His enemies (Romans 5:10), but His children (Galatians 3:26), joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17) to His inheritance of eternal life, and united as the body (Romans 12:5) and bride (Revelation 21:2) of Christ! But it gets even better – we are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and His fellow-laborers (1 Corinthians 3:9). 
His general plan for our lives is that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), and that once saved, to keep His commandments, to tell others about Him, to pray, and study His Word. Beyond that, He has a specific plan for each of us (Ephesians 2:10), which He designed before time even began (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11). If we have faith, He will reveal that plan to us, piece by piece. If we yield to His Holy Spirit and follow that plan, we will have the joy of hearing Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21) 
Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever! 
© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Chutes, But No Ladders

Photo by Gaussenchennai 2019
I dreamed that I was staying in a large city where many themed resort hotels were close together. I thought it would be an interesting outing to travel from one to the next and to explore the sights in each hotel’s lobby and common areas.

There was a tram departing from outside the hotel where I was staying, so I hopped aboard and got off at the next stop, which appeared to be a flight-themed hotel. I entered what seemed to be an airline cabin, with typical passenger seats. As the “plane” took off, I realized that there was no lift-off, only a side-to-side lurching as the cabin sped along a serpentine track.

Once we had stopped, I got out and was surprised to find myself on the platform of what appeared to be an amusement park ride, with open-sided kiddie cars strung together. There was no way back to the plane and no other way off the platform, so I scrunched into one of the cars and grabbed onto the rail just in time as it launched into motion.

After a very short horizontal distance, the ride plunged downward at breakneck speed, so fast that the pit of my stomach jammed into my throat. Finally it stopped, slamming me forward, and I doubled over for a moment before I could stagger to my feet and out of the car.

Breathless and shaking, I realized I had been gone from the hotel way too long and needed to return as soon as possible. But there seemed to be no options other than to get back in another kiddie car, which also appeared to be on a steep track even further downward and away from the hotel. There were no escalators, elevators, or even stairways to return to the higher level where I had left my hotel.

I was relieved to see a uniformed man whom I assumed to be the transit police.

“Is this the subway?” I asked, pointing to the kiddie car, then realized how ridiculous that sounded.

He rolled his eyes, then feigned concern that only came across as patronizing condescension.

“Ma’am, where is it that you want to go?”

“Back to my hotel.”

“Which one?”

I realized in horror that I had no clue about the name of the hotel where I had been staying. He rattled off a list of names, none of which sounded familiar, until he finally suggested “Blue Hotel.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed. “How do I get there?”

But he only shrugged his shoulders and bustled away, leaving me to awaken in a panic.

As I considered the meaning of the dream, I remembered a trip to Las Vegas during which my husband and I enjoyed taking the monorail from one hotel to the next and walking around each hotel, admiring the unique décor, architecture, attractions and shopping of each one. We had joked that it was like walking around the world, traveling from New York, to Paris, to Venice (Bellagio), and ancient Rome (Caesar’s Palace), all in a single day.

But we knew that we were still in Las Vegas and hadn’t really gone anywhere, for each hotel was a cleverly staged illusion to lure the visitor (and potential gambler) to spend more time there. For the same reason, there are no clocks or even windows within these hotels, so that the gambler loses contact with time and even with reality as he keeps trying to beat the house.

As born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we must be careful not to be distracted by earthly, temporal things and thereby lose sight of our eternal destiny (Colossians 3:1-2).

My husband and I don’t gamble, and there was nothing wrong in enjoying the beautiful, lavish and picturesque interiors of the hotels we visited, but if we had lingered too long, it might have become a distraction from our real purpose for going to Las Vegas, which was to share our dance ministry at a hotel where we had been invited to perform.

Leaving the hotel in the dream proved to be disastrous, as each segment of the bone-rattling journey brought me further away from where I needed to be, to the point that I felt I could not return. Each conveyance was merely an imitation of true forms of transportation. These reminded me of the train in that famous episode of “Twilight Zone” that always circled back to where it began, preventing the protagonists from escaping, for it was merely a toy in a dollhouse village owned by a giant child.

In the board game, “Chutes and Ladders,” players advance up the ladders based on the roll of the dice, but then without warning may slide far down a chute. In the dream I was actually trying to return to my starting point, but each ride carried me not only further away, but also further down. The ride was deceptively level at the beginning, then suddenly vanished down a dangerous precipice, reminding me that we are most likely to slip and fall when we are prideful of our good standing (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:12).

Ultimately I was so far away that I no longer even remembered the name of the place where I was staying. The world and its power structure are of no help in returning us to God’s plan for us (Matthew 6:24), as was evident in the dream by the lack of any way to travel upward, and the indifference of the transit policeman.

On our Christian journey to the mountaintop of heavenly rewards, we sometimes fall backward and slide down, but the climb is always still there, waiting for us to resume it.  Thankfully, our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us struggle to our feet, and God Himself is there with an outstretched arm, just waiting for us to take the first step (Ecclesiastes 4:9; Proverbs 24:16; Psalm 136:12; Galatians 6:1).

The hotel where I started my dream journey was called the Blue Hotel, the color perhaps signifying royal garments of the priesthood and furnishings of God’s temple (Exodus 26-28; 35-39; Numbers 4,15; etc.). These may symbolize the heavenly places where we are seated in Christ even while walking this earth (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).

In common parlance, the phrase “blue skies” refers to smooth sailing and good times without interference from storms. As Christians, our sure hope (Hebrews 6:19) in eternal life in Heaven gives us spiritual blue skies, namely the peace thatpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and joy in His salvation (Psalm 21:1; Isaiah 61:10).

Yet the word “blue” can also mean sad or depressed, for even as Christians we are not immune from sorrow. Even Christ Himself was a man of sorrows, well acquainted by grief, yet by His stripes, or suffering, we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5). The only other Scripture reference to “blue” is in Proverbs 3:20:

The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.

This verse is a sober reminder that when we stray, our loving Father God will chastise us, sometimes through His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), but with scourging or physical pain if the spoken Word is ineffective (Hebrews 12:6).

May we set our affection and sights on heavenly things above, and not be brought down by the things of this world! May we be vigilant to hear and do the will of our Father, ever climbing upward until He takes us home, and seeking His strength and guidance when our errors bring us to the pit of the valley!      

© 2019 Laurie Collett