Regifting: 3 Gifts Worth Giving Again

Let’s face it. Every Christmas we get that gift we know we won’t use. Before we completely rip off the paper, we know who’s going to get it next. Thestreet.com lists the following as the top ten gifts most likely to be regifted: candles, picture frames, gift baskets, perfume, fruit cake, wine, cookbooks, bath soaps, books and (drumroll please), pajamas (really?).

If you know Jesus, he has given you 3 gifts you should regift. As a matter of fact, you may need to wrap them up today and give them away. Christmas isn’t the only time to do that. You can give these again and again all year long.

Grace

John, writing about his best friend and the Messiah, said, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 ESV) Charles Spurgeon said: “Nothing but the infinite can ever satisfy me; I am such a great sinner that I must have infinite merit to wash my sin away; but we have had our sin removed, and found that there was merit to spare; we have had our hunger relieved at the feast of sacred love.” The grace that found you in your sin, drew you in, washed you clean, and put you in God’s trophy case is worth regifting.

Forgiveness

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV) Toward the end of his life, John Newton, former slave trader and ultimate author of that old hymn, Amazing Grace, said: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” Who has hurt you, wounded you, slighted you? Will you give them the forgiveness that was freely, at a very high cost, given to you?

Patience

Maybe this one surprised you. Patience is not on most people’s short list. Thankfully, it’s on God’s. Peter, who knew very well the patience of the God who once called him Satan, wrote:  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV) Who grates on your nerves, pushes your buttons, stretches you to your limit–almost every time. Ask God for the grace to be patient.

Regift. Today. Don’t wait. Seriously.

You’d Better Run!

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV)

fts

Dictionary.com defines flee as to run away, as from danger or pursuers. Idolatry is dangerous. Fleeing is the only sane response. Making it practical, here are five ways to flee idolatry:

  1. End ungodly relationships. The right relationship with the wrong person is still the wrong relationship.  Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20 ESV)
  2. End ungodly habits. Stephen Covey said, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) What you do today will determine who you are tomorrow.
  3. Don’t just run from–run to. If you flee idolatry without running to God, you will replace your old idol with another one.  The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10 ESV)
  4. Begin godly relationships. You are not designed to walk alone. From the beginning, God knew Adam should not be alone so he made a helper for him. John called this walking in the light:  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV)
  5. If you fall down, don’t freak out, ‘fess up.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV) God is faithful when you fail. Run to him.

Do You Love Me?

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV)

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A boat on the Sea of Galilee

Peter faltered but he did not ultimately fail. Why? Because Jesus prayed for him. Not long after the above conversation Jesus was taken to the high priest’s house. A servant girl there recognized Peter as having been with Jesus. He lied and said he hadn’t. Two more bystanders approached Peter about his relationship with Jesus. Here’s what happened:

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62 ESV)

Peter wept bitterly.

I wonder if, while weeping, he remembered the first time he met Jesus? “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Did he recount the time Jesus taught in the synagogue, walked down the road to Peter’s house and healed his mother-in-law? Or when he walked on the water–and was rescued by Jesus when he looked down at the water. Surely his mind was flooded with memories of time spent with Jesus he loved so much.

Peter wept bitterly. But Jesus had prayed for him.

Jesus was crucified and resurrected and went looking for Peter. He found him fishing again. Peter had abandoned his pulpit for a fishing net. A conversation ensued. Jesus asked Peter two times if he loved him. Peter answered “Yes!” Then he asked one more time.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17 ESV)

Peter was grieved again. Three times he had denied Jesus. Now three times he has affirmed his love for him. He was so disappointed in himself. Would Jesus ever use him again? Did he have a future with this Jesus? Jesus’s response reassured Peter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19 ESV)

Peter did more than follow! He preached the first sermon after Pentecost. He became the pastor of the Jerusalem church. He wrote two remarkable letters that made it into the New Testament. Why? Because Jesus prayed and Peter repented.

Jesus is praying for you. How will you answer his prayer?

The Room

Joshua Harris, pastor in New England, had this dream years ago as a teenager. It was originally published in New Attitude magazine in 1995. If you struggle with guilt over past, forgiven sins, this is a must read. If you think your sins are too much for God, read this.

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed.”

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I Have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed At.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger,” “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To,” I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

“No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.”

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

By Joshua Harris. Orginally published in New Attitude Magazine. Copyright New Attitude, 1995. You have permission to reprint this in any form. We only ask that you include the appropriate copyright byline and do not alter the content.

Debt Free Living

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

opraiseOnce Wendy and I were having dinner in a nice restaurant, enjoying the meal, enjoying one another’s company. We got ready to leave and there was no bill to pay. The waitress told us someone had paid it. “Wait a minute,” I contested, “who did that?” I wanted to thank them. Part of me wanted to try to pay them back. There was nothing I could do. The bill was paid…in full.

When I was 15 years old I attended a revival service. That night, for the first time, I realized I had a massive sin debt that only Jesus could handle. I had broken God’s law, broken Jesus’s heart, and acted a fool in my pride. As soon as the pastor finished preaching I went forward and received Jesus’s payment in full for my sins. What a sinner I was…what a Savior he is!

In 1865 Elvina Hall penned the words that say, better than I ever could, how I feel about what Jesus has done for me. Sing them as you read them:

I hear the Savior say,
Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
and melt the heart of stone.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
Jesus died my soul to save,
my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow

O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

Jesus, the Great Equalizer

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

sycamore

A sycamore tree in Palestine

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus was short…so short he feared he wouldn’t see Jesus in the crowd. He did what any dignified, wealthy Jewish man would never do. He ran. The elite in Jesus’s day didn’t run–they walked confidently wherever they went. Zacchaeus was rich but when he heard Jesus was coming to town all of a sudden his money didn’t matter. All that mattered was seeing Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Football quarterbacks give him credit. Army Generals pray to him. Presidents humble themselves before Him. Billionaires call him Lord. Paupers call him King. All who follow Jesus die to themselves and live for Him.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree. It wasn’t just any tree, it was a sycamore tree. When we think sycamore tree, we think flaky bark and maple looking leaves. The sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed was a fig-bearing tree. As a matter of fact, poor people often climbed this tree to pick its fruit. Zacchaeus, the rich (chief) tax collector climbed the tree of the peasant so he could see Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Scriptural Convictions

From The Valley of Vision (page 350-351)…a prayer thanking God for His word…

O God of Love

I approach you with encouragements derived from your character, for I am not left to feel after you in the darkness of my nature, nor to worship you as the unknown God. I cannot find out your perfections, but I know you are good, ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy.

You have displayed your wisdom, power and goodness in all your works, and have revealed your will in the Scripture of truth. You have caused it to be preserved, translated, published, multiplied, so that all men may possess it and find you in it.

Here I see your greatness and your grace, your pity and your rectitude, your mercy and your truth, your being and men’s hearts; through it you have magnified your name, and favored mankind with the gospel.

Have mercy on me, for I have ungratefully received your benefits, little improved my privileges, made light of spiritual things, disregarded your messages, contended with examples of the good, rebukes of conscience, admonitions of friends, leadings of providence.

I deserve that your kingdom be taken away from me.

Lord, I confess my sin with feeling, lamentation, a broken heart, a contrite spirit, self-abhorrence, self-condemnation, self-despair.

Give me relief by Jesus my hope, faith in his name of Savior, forgiveness by his blood, strength by his presence, holiness by his Spirit: and let me love you with all my heart.

We Do not Know

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God  things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

We live in the age of knowledge. If you want to know anything, you can find it out! A few years ago, I attended a conference hosted by Josh McDowell. Josh McDowell was an atheist who set out to prove that Christianity was not true. The result of his study was a book entitled More Than a Carpenter in which he beautifully defends the Christian faith. In his talk, he talked about knowledge. I do not remember the exact figures, but it went something like this. From the time of the Romans (near Jesus’ time) until the 1500’s, there was relatively little increase in knowledge. Then came the discovery of the western continents (North and South America) and the expansion of the world. As this happened, knowledge began to increase much faster than before. Knowledge, up until that time, double once approximately every 40-50 years. With the industrial revolution, knowledge increased once every 40 years. Then, we entered the 1800’s knowledge began to increase every 20 years. Now, with the advancement in modern technology, knowledge doubles every two years.

Someone has said, “The change in the intellectual climate has happened while knowledge increases at an unprecedented pace. It has been estimated that in this century the amount of scientific knowledge has doubled every ten years. It is important to notice that our rising concern for humanity coincides with prodigious developments in theoretical and practical knowledge. These developments are not an accidental circumstance of the change in the psychological climate — quite the contrary. They are an essential factor of that change. The more we know and the more we can do, the more we doubt and the more we worry. Our doubts and our worries appear to be commensurable with our knowledge. Whatever were the intentions and hopes of the originators of the idea of progress, certainly they did not intend to make life more insecure or worrisome.

So when we come to a sentence like, “we do not know how” we don’t like it! However, the truth is that many people do not know how to live life as you should. You want to succeed, but success seems to e;ice you. You want to be a better husband, but you don’t know how. You don’t like how you lose control, but your temper seems to get the best of you. In an age of ever increasing knowledge, we can find comfort in the almost embarrassing phrase, “I don’t know how.”

What happens when we admit that we don’t know how? The Spirit helps. This word helps is a wonderful word in the Greek. The word help in the English doesn’t do this word justice. It more accurately means, “to lend a hand together with, at the same time with one.” What happens?   Here Paul beautifully pictures the Holy Spirit taking hold at our side at the very time of our weakness and before too late. At the moment of weakness, not a moment too soon and not a moment too late, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, walks alongside us, lends us a hand, and walks with us through the weakness.

Paul wants to drive home the point. He says, “The Spirit Himself to show that when you are struggling the worst, God does not send a substitute—He comes Himself to your aid.” And what does He do? He intercedes. This is the only time this word appears in the New Testament. It is a picturesque word of rescue by one who happens on someone who is in trouble and in his behalf pleads “with unuttered groanings” or with “sighs that baffle words.”

You have a Savior who rescues and the Spirit who regenerates.

The Room

In that place between wakefulness and dreams,

filesI found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files.  They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order.  But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and right to left as far as the eye could see, had very different headings. As I walked up to the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read, “People I Have Liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my entire life.  The actions of my every moment, big and small, were written in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity mixed with horror stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content.  Some brought joy and sweet memories, others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed.” The titles ranged from common, everyday things to the not-so-common “Books I Have  Read,”  “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I Have Yelled At My Brothers And Sisters.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done In Anger”,  “Things I Have Muttered  Under My Breath At My Parents”. I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.  Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I had hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had time in my 17 years to write each of these thousands or millions of cards? But each card confirmed the truth. Each card was written in my own handwriting. Each card was signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents.  The cards were packed tightly and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.  When I came to the file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch not willing to test its size, and drew out a card; I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think such a moment had been recorded. A feeling of humiliation and anger ran through my body.

One thought dominated my mind “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy, I yanked the file out.   Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards.

But as I took the file at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot.

Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. That was when I saw it. The file bore “People I Have Shared The Gospel With”. The handle was brighter than those around it – newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than 3 inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

Then as I looked up through my tears, I saw Him enter the room. No, please, not HIM.  Anyone but Jesus.   I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. The few times I looked at His face I saw such sadness that it tore at my heart. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again.

He walked over and put his arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me. Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file, and, one by one began to sign His name over mine on each card.

“No!” I shouted, rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no”, as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of   JESUS   covered mine. It was written in blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said,

“IT IS FINISHED.”

“I stood up, and He led me out of the room.
There was no lock on the door. There were still cards to be written…….

(by Joshua Harris)

Scandalous Grace

Do you know the most compelling evidence to me of who we are in Christ? He is unnamed. We’re not exactly sure the crime he committed. We just know that it wasn’t by accident that he was scheduled to be executed the same day Jesus was crucified. Most executions were not attended by such crowds. Most crucifixions didn’t cause such a stir. But for this unnamed criminal, his most embarrassing moment became his most exhilarating. His most confining moment became his most liberating. He was crucified…and rightly so. He was guilty of crimes.

Jesus was crucified right beside him…and for no good reason. He was falsely accused.photo(The criminal beside Jesus: Photo by Chandler Frisbee)

This unnamed criminal, hanging naked, bleeding, writhing in pain on the cross, saw something in Jesus that the Romans soldiers couldn’t see. He saw something in Jesus that the Jewish leaders couldn’t see. He saw something in Jesus that the other thief couldn’t see. He also saw his sinful self.

Do you know what happened? That day, the naked, destitute, friendless, guilty criminal became a saint. What grace from the cross when Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He had no time to join the church, to time to mend the wrongs he had done, no time to make restitution. He didn’t have to. He was crucified with Jesus…literally…and he was crucified with Jesus spiritually. He had a new relationship.

From criminal to citizen. From outcast to in. From a thief to a saint. In just one moment.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, that’s what happened to you.

I know. It’s scandalous. Grace is.

Are you living like it?

That’s what happened to you. I know. It’s scandalous. Grace is. Are you living like it?