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.

When God Preaches to Me…While I’m Preaching

Sunday in the second service something remarkable happened. I’ve studied Romans 7 for years. God used this passage to rock my world many years ago and I have referred to it for years while counseling others. But God showed me something Sunday that I had never seen. It may be so obvious to you–but came to me near the end of Sunday’s sermon. The part in bold is what I’ve never before realized quite as powerfully as Sunday. (If you missed Sunday, you can hear the sermon here:http://graceforall.org/media.php?pageID=6)

So, as strange as this, I’m gonna quote from my own sermon:

Unless you realize that there is a victor who lives within you now, because you belong to Christ, who is also outside of you–the victor is both within and without–you will never win the battle over sin. When did he become victorious?  Jesus came, sinless one, and died on the cross. On the cross he didn’t have just one of your sins attached to himself, he had all of your sins attached to himself. He didn’t just have what you’ve done and plays through your mind like a broken record that you can’t get rid of, but for every human being who’s ever walked on the planet–imagine the multiplied guilt–put it on Christ on the cross and on the cross he died for those sins–every single one of them–once and for all.

But listen to this. As awesome as that is, if it ended there Paul said, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” That would be horrible–that the weight of our sin crushed him and that was it.

Friday followed by Saturday. The disciples fled. Mary cried. Joseph and Nicodemus buried his body. Judas is dead. Peter denied. Hope seems lost until early Sunday morning. Because early Sunday morning your sin was not powerful enough to keep him in the tomb! It wasn’t! And if your sin was not powerful enough to keep him in the tomb then, is your sin powerful enough to keep him down in your life today? NO!

This is why Paul writes in Romans 8:11:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

So what is tripping you up? Wrecking your life? Derailing you? Jeremy Camp has put this brilliantly. Take a few minutes to listen:

The God of Again

Jerusalem had seen 70 years of devastation. The Assyrian army came with a vengeance, destroyed the palace, ransacked the temple, and confiscated the articles used to worship God, carrying them back to their own pagan temples. The walls in shambles, the city in ruins, God speaks through Zechariah his prophet:

“The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 1:2-3 ESV)

Repeated words are repeated for a reason. God is referenced as the LORD of hosts three times in this passage. The LORD of hosts is the God of angel armies, the God who fights for Israel. When God chose to speak to his people after their rebellion, he spoke as the LORD (all capitals refers to God’s personal name, Jehovah), and specifically the LORD of armies–God’s ready to fight for his own wandering children.

Why? After all they’ve done, why would he desire to defend them?

So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. (Zechariah 1:14 ESV)

God is jealous for his children. He loves them (and you). Then the word again shows up–4 times in one sentence. Don’t miss it.

Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’” (Zechariah 1:17 ESV, emphasis mine)

God is the God of again. Cry out again. My cities shall again. and the LORD will again. And again choose. Dictionary.com defines again as “once more, another time, anew.”

Going through a divorce? You can love again. Death of a loved one? You’ll see them again. Fired from your job? You’ll work again. Breakup with the person you thought was the one? You’ll date again. Committed that same sin? God forgives again. Bank account exhausted? God will provide again.

“How can you be sure?” you ask.

For thus said the LORD of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: (Zechariah 2:8 ESV)

You are the apple of his eye, the pulse of his heart, the thought on his mind, the object of his jealousy, the joy of Jesus on the cross, the bride of Christ. Anybody who touches you, touches the apple of God’s eye.

And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’” (Zechariah 2:5 ESV)

God’s got you. He’s around you and in you.

The God of again.

 

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?

“I Have Prayed for You”

“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.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34 ESV)

Jesus sounds like the consummate parent–he calls Simon’s name twice–and Simon was Peter’s formal name. You can tell he wants Peter to hear what he has to say. Notice his language. If anyone knows Satan, it’s Jesus. He was in heaven when Satan was thrown out. Satan demanded. You have to wonder why Satan wanted Peter so badly that he would demand. Never forget that Satan can only do what God allows him to do. The tense of the verb “demanded” suggests that this happened at a particular time. When did Satan show up to Jesus and ask to destroy Peter?

wheatSatan wanted to sift Peter like wheat. I looked up sifting wheat in ancient times. Here’s what ehow.com had to say:

The first step in the process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain, which is called threshing. The old-fashioned way to do this is to spread the wheat onto a floor made from stone, concrete or tamped earth and to beat it with a flail. The next step is called winnowing, where the loosened chaff is removed from the grain. The old-fashioned way of doing this is to throw the grain in the air, where the lighter chaff is blown off by even a decent breeze. The heavier grain falls back to the ground below.

In other words Satan wanted to stomp Peter into the ground and throw him in the air while the wind blew through. Satan wanted to destroy Peter. What was Jesus’s response? I have prayed for you. Jesus prayed for Peter. That your faith may not fail. Peter, I have prayed that you will still believe I am who I am after you see me mercilessly beaten by the Romans. I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail after you see the cross on my shoulders. I have prayed that you will still believe when I am laid in the tomb.

Jesus prayed for Peter.

Peter didn’t get it. He was guilty of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12: Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Peter thought he could handle Satan’s attacks. Jesus knew he couldn’t. Jesus prayed for Peter. And Jesus is praying for you too. 

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 ESV)

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, He is praying for you now. Tomorrow we will eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and Peter on the seashore and learn how God answered Jesus’s prayer for Peter. Until then, rest in the reality that Jesus is praying for you.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4925686_farmers-sift-wheat.html

Impostor gods

impostorMouseTherefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 ESV)

Dictionary.com defines impostor as a person who practices deception under an assumed character, identity, or name. The world is filled with idols–gods with a little “g” that wage war against the one true God. Sometimes they masquerade as beneficial, even necessary, parts of life. A career, investment account, car, accomplishments, hobby, body image, or college degree can look, feel and even act like a god. Other times, gods are inherently evil yet subtly deceptive: alcohol, drugs, pornography, workaholism.

Kyle Idleman, in Gods at War says it this way:

Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers, and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you begin to see that it’s always there, under some other coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul makes it clear that God is the goal of our existence and Jesus is the means. He describes God as the Father “from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” In a word, God is not only the beginning of our existence, He is the end!

In the same breath Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the means of our existence. Jesus is the one “through whom are all things,” and “through whom we exist.”

Jesus is no impostor.

He is both the creator and the crucified one. In Genesis, he said “let there be,” and in Gethsemane, he cried, “not my will, but yours be done.” In Genesis he started everything; on the cross he cried, “It is finished.” In Genesis he introduced death; on the 3rd day he conquered death!

Jesus is no impostor.

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)

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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.

To Serve or To Be Served

Yesterday Wendy and I took Hannah to Greenville Spartanburg Airport. We sent her off on a one-month trek to Ecuador where she will hang with missionaries, share the Gospel, canoe the Amazon and hike an icy mountain. You can imagine the mixed emotions we had as we left her in the hands of her Intercultural Studies professor and a dozen other students.

When we left we went to a nearby restaurant and sat down to eat. We were a bit tired and emotionally drained. When we walked into the restaurant it never occurred to us to serve. We went there to be served. J. B., our waiter, brought us a menu, asked us what we wanted to drink, brought our ice waters (with lemon of course!) and took our order. He brought our food to us, refilled our waters and graciously waited on us. It never occurred to us that we should serve–we walked in there to be served.

When J. B. walked into that restaurant yesterday, it never occurred to him that he would be served. He came to serve. His sole purpose for coming to work yesterday was to serve.

Jesus can identify with J. B.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)

Jesus did not walk on planet earth to be served. It never occurred to him to sit down at the table and wait on someone to take his order. No! He entered planet earth to serve. He sat down at the well with the Samaritan woman. He fed thousands with a few loaves and fish. He cried over Lazarus’s death.  He donned a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. He hung humiliated on a wooden cross. He gave his life a ransom for many.

How will you walk into your day today? As a server or a customer?

Humble Confidence

Pray this confident in what Christ as done for you. (From The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers)…

O God, you are very great,

My lot is to approach you with godly fear and humble confidence, for your condescension equals your grandeur, and your goodness is your glory.

I am unworthy, but you do welcome; guilty but you are merciful; indigent, but your riches are unsearchable.

You have shown boundless compassion towards me by not sparing your Son, and by giving me freely all things in him. This is the fountain of my hope, the refuge of my safety, the new and living way to you, the means of that conviction of sin, brokenness of heart, and self-despair, which will endear me to the gospel.

Happy are they who are Christ’s, in him at peace with you, justified from all things, delivered from coming wrath, made heirs of future glory.

Give me such deadness to the world, such love for the Savior, such attachment to his church, such devotion to his service, as proves me a subject of his salvation.

May every part of my character and conduct make a serious and amiable impression on others, and impel them to ask the way to the Master.

Let no incident of life, pleasing or painful, injure the prosperity of my soul, but rather increase it.

Send me your help, for your appointments are not meant to make me independent of you, and the best means will be vain without super-added blessings.

Amen.

I Love to Tell the Story

And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:33-35 ESV)

There is something about good news that cannot be contained. An engagement requires an announcement. A pregnancy demands telling. So it was with Cleopas and his friend. As soon as Jesus had departed from their presence, they departed from their place. They couldn’t wait any longer. Though it was evening and had grown dark–and the trek back from Emmaus to Jerusalem was dangerous in the dark–they got up that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.

This poses a question for you and me: Is the good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection that fresh to us? Who have you told this week? Who did you invite to worship with you? Who came to your mind and you got up from where you were and ran as fast as you could (or drove of course!) and said, “I have something to tell you. I’ve seen Jesus and what he said and did changed my life!” Who has heard your story?

Take five minutes, watch and take in this beautiful rendition of Tell Me the Story of Jesus: 

Invite someone to worship tomorrow to hear the story.