Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Greatest Gift

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving.  Much is made however of the materialism that runs rampant during the Christmas holiday season.  Our lust to receive and give material things runs far above what is needed or what we even have the ability to pay for.  But regardless of how out of balance man can be, the idea of giving was not initiated by man.  Giving originated with God.  Giving was not only God’s idea; it is part of His nature, a part of who He is!   “God so loved the world that he gave…”  (John 3:16)   God gives, because God loves; and because God loves He by nature desires to give.   “When he ascended on high, he…gave gifts to men.” (Eph.4:8)

It is easy for us to understand that God has given us certain things.  But we don’t often realize the extent to which god gives unto us.  Psalms 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it, the world and they who dwell in it.”  Not only does the whole earth belong to the Lord, but all the creatures who dwell on the earth, including man, are His as well.  Living in a democratic society we have a hard time understanding the idea of kingdom rule.  In a kingdom “everything” within the kingdom belongs to the king.  That is why Robin Hood and his merry men were wanted for poaching in the “king’s forest.”  Not only did the forest belong to the king, but the animals in the forest were his as well.  Our flesh rebels at the idea of a kingdom society because our only concept of kingdom rule is one governed by “evil” kings who care not for their people.  By contrast the Kingdom of God mentioned in the Bible has a Holy and loving King who governs His Kingdom with “justice, truth, and righteousness.”  A holy and just King desires to give to his subjects all they need because he loves them.

An example of all that God has given to us is found in Joshua chapter 24.  The Lord is recounting to the Israelites the history of what has happened to them as a people and all that He, God, had done for them.  As he retells their history to them, he proclaims all the things that He has given them.  First, referring to Abraham God says, “I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.”   All the seed of Abraham was a gift from God.  Later in verse 8 God tell the Israelites that although they had many enemies who fought against them “I gave them into your hands, that ye might possess their land.”  God reminds them of the multitude of enemies that they faced, and how “He” had defeated them all on their behalf in order to give them the land as a possession.  He exclaims how He used hornets to drive some of the enemy out of the land even before they arrived.  When an enemy king sent Balaam to curse the Israelites, God refused to allow it, and turned the curse intended for their destruction, into a prophetic blessing spoken over them.  God goes on to say in verse 13 that, “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Nothing has changed since God spoke these words to the Israelites; His giving hand is upon us just as it was upon them.  Our children and our families are gifts from God.  Our land, homes, possessions, and even the very food we eat, are gifts from Him.  The trials we have passed through, the enemies we have overcome, and the hedge of protection that keeps us, are all gifts given to us by Gods mighty hand.  There is nothing we have, or have done, or will ever accomplish that we can ever say was of our own doing; for our life, our health, our strength, our every breath, are all given to us as gifts from our loving, gracious, and all powerful King.   God has spoken favor and blessings over us.  He has extended unfathomable grace and mercy to us.  He takes pleasure in giving to us.  “For it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

There are many more things we could talk about that the scriptures say that God gives to us; like wisdom, power, authority, liberty, and even the rain.  But the greatest thing that God has ever given man is announced in 1 Tim. 2:5-6 where it says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.”  Jesus gave himself for us.  The eternal creator God of the universe gave himself for “you!”  “No greater love hath one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  Giving ones’ life for another is a gift to large to comprehend.  But when the giver of this "indescribable gift" is the King of all creation, who humbled Himself to die a cruel crucifixion for “Me,” that is beyond mind boggling.  So regardless of what other marvelous gifts you may give or receive this Christmas, please don’t ignore this greatest gift of all, and leave it unopened at the foot of the “tree.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

“Drawing my life from Jesus…?”

It seems as though our lives are plagued with this constant roller coaster flow of trials and blessings, heart aches and joys.  We can feel we are standing on top of the world one day only to plummet to the bottom of the ravine the next.  So when things are good or I am experiencing spiritual highs, I tend to want to soak up a large reserve of the spiritual closeness and power to hold in store so I can make it through when the next valley comes.  The thing is, God has been showing me that even in my best times of worship, or my greatest times of Biblical revelation, the blessing the Spirit pours out upon me is only intended to fill me up "in that moment" and is not intended to carry me over for days to come.  Like manna God fed the Israelites with while in the wilderness; it only lasted for a day, so it had to be gathered fresh and new each morning.  Yes, unlike manna Jesus is the bread that if we eat of, we will never hunger again. (John 6:35)  But we must feed on him continually, not just once a week, or once a month at special worship services.  We tend to have a "spiritual retirement mentality."  We want to get our needs met, build up storage, and retire. (Sit back and spiritually relax for a while.)  Like the rich fool in the parable in Luke 12:18-19 who said to himself, “This is what I'll do, I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods.  And I'll say to myself, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat drink and be merry."  It is right and good to rest in God’s grace and goodness, and we need times of spiritual rest and rejuvenation; but we are never to retire from our spiritual fervor or stop eating the bread of life, even for a short season.

We see the same idea found in John 4 where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well.  In the course of the conversation, Jesus tells her, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”   Her reply to him was, "Give me this water so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."   Jesus truly is the “spring of living water” that wells up within to bring eternal life so that we will never thirst again.  But Jesus did not tell this woman that she would not have to draw from that spring of water.  He just said it would not be necessary for her to ever be thirsty again.  Although Jesus offered her the gift of eternal life, she, like us, would still need to draw life from Jesus, the source of life, every moment of every day.  Not just once in awhile, or at a special meeting, or even once a day during private devotion time.  We must continually draw our life from him, moment-to-moment.  

In John Eldridge's new book, “Beautiful Outlaw” he makes the following statement. "Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence and life within you."  Go back and read that statement two or three more times and let it soak in....  Jesus has no intention to let us find healing or fulfillment from any other source besides himself.   We must draw our life from him, and him alone, moment-to-moment.  The question then that is purposed before our hearts is this, “Am I truly drawing my life from Jesus and Him alone, or am I drawing life from some other source other than Him?  Am I attempting to find fulfillment, security, joy, or healing from places other than Jesus?” 

The gospels recount the story of a young man that is often dubbed the “rich young ruler,” who is doing just that.  He comes running up to Jesus, kneels before him and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  To which Jesus replies, “You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor you father and mother.”  The young man confident in his religious service replies, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said, “Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven.  Then come and follow me.”  At that the man’s face fell.  He went away sad because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-21)  Jesus didn’t tell this young man to sell his belongings because there was something wrong or evil about having money or being wealthy.  Nor did Jesus ask him to give his money to the poor because that is the only “Godly” use of money.  Jesus requirement for this young man to sell all that he had and give it away, was to “expose” his soul's “true” source of life and security.   The problem this young man had, and the thing he lacked, was not in his actions, but was in his heart.  This young entrepreneur was drawing his life from his wealth and the social position it afforded him.  He was also no doubt drawing his security and his joy from them as well.  He went away sad because if this man were to do as Jesus had asked, he would be giving up his source of life, and that was something he obviously was not yet prepared to do.  His religion had always caused him to live a good life, but to solely draw his life from Jesus, and abandon all other sources of life to go and follow Jesus, was just too much.

What about us?  Are we drawing our life from our possession or social standing?  Are we drawing our life from our careers or even our benevolence?   Is our security and joy tied to money, whether we have any or not.  Is our esteem based in our intellect, or the approval of man?

A loved one of mine was struggling with finding time amongst the hecticness of life to draw from Jesus as she felt she should.  She understood the importance of it and her heart truly desires to do so, but didn’t feel like she was able to find the time.  I have good news for her, and for you.  If we have truly been born again and thus have “the spring of water that well up to eternal life” within us; then drawing our life from Jesus is not as complicated as we might think, or as mystical as “religion” would make it.  Yes, just as Jesus told the aforementioned “rich young ruler,” we must turn our trust away from the earthly things, and turn our trust toward Jesus.  But having done that, we have the “spring of life” within us and can draw from that life at any moment of our day, no matter what we are doing.  --- When you're fixing your car or mowing your lawn, speak to him - "Jesus, I draw my life and my joy from you."  --- When you are preparing dinner or washing the dishes, whisper to him - "Jesus, I draw my life and my healing from you."  --- When you are arguing with your spouse or correcting your children, cry out to him - "Jesus, I draw my life and my wisdom from you." 

Drawing our life from Jesus is not a posture or a work; it does not need to be done at a special building or at a special time.  It is an attitude of the heart, mind, and soul.  It is total dependence upon Jesus for every breath, ever need, every longing.  So what are you waiting for?  Draw from Him!  Cry out to Him!  He has been waiting for you!

"Jesus,  I abandon all I have ever trusted in before!  Jesus, I now draw my life from you… and you alone!"