Heavenly Gift Shop

Heavenly Gift Shop

By Pat Knight

God is the purveyor of His own gift shop where the selections are so monumental one stands in awe of His inventory. From His voluminous supply, He fills a shopping basket of spiritual gifts for each of us.

First, He chooses an ample amount of peace. In this frantic world, peace of mind is paramount. Jesus promised, “‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give’” (John 14:2, NLT). When we experience peace amidst adversity, harmony prevails. “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:7, NLT). Inner tranquility permeates our thoughts and actions when our faith is founded in Jesus. Our peace is so complete, we rejoice during trials, assured that God abundantly bathes our souls with His all-encompassing comfort.

“Those who promote peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20). The two gifts of peace and joy complement one another. We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4). What spiritual freedom is available when we abandon worry for inner buoyant confidence. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (Romans 5:3, NLT). With joy prevalent in our lives, our character is strengthened, whatever the circumstances. We abandon worry for inner contentment. What spiritual freedom defines our lives when we rejoice and thank God for His perfect plan, orchestrated in His precise timing of each detail. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

In God’s gift shop, love swirls in abundance. Who can perceive God’s unconditional love, the kind that sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins? God delights in lavishing His children with similar sacrificial love, awash in His love that naturally extends to others. That is God’s way; He never instructs us to hoard His gifts for our exclusive use, but commands that we share for everyone’s benefit. “Let us love one another because love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). God’s love will never suffer extinction.

Each day God showers us with a fresh amount of love and compassion. We may wonder if we possess an adequate amount of love or if we will utilize it in all the right situations. “God is love; whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). God’s love abides with believers, constantly proliferating in our lives. An infinite supply of peace, joy, and love have been selected for us at God’s spiritual gift shop for immediate delivery to our hearts.

God adds gentleness, a priceless gift. During crucial life encounters, gentleness is often difficult to summon.

Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love”
(Ephesians 4:2).

Mildness and tenderness are components of gentleness. He supplies copious amounts of gentleness and expects us to apply it liberally. We all prefer delicate handling with tenderness that speaks of Christ Himself. His nail-scarred hands are the very ones that surround us with a soothing approach. We are encouraged to emulate Jesus’ attribute of humility and meekness.

God is the consummate gentleman, never intruding in our affairs without request. Once we convert the control of our hearts and minds to God, He will exhibit the perfect amount of gentle help and understanding.

Gentleness and self-control are often spoken together. “Like a city whose walls are broken down, is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). The goal of a follower of Christ is to be in control of emotions, speech, and actions at all times. His personal attributes establish the perfect example for us to follow so that others may see Jesus living in us. He desires that the light of His presence shines through our lives in all that we do or say. Managing our behavior is only possible when we first relinquish control to God. Gentleness is the result of our intimate walk with Christ.

God includes a plentiful measure of kindness for you by setting the example: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Tenderness and goodwill are both expressions of kindness, producing thoughtful deeds toward others. When shared, kindness takes root and grows, producing hope and delight in the recipient, goodwill in the giver. Whenever his gifts are dispensed, God is promoted. Kindness shared permits us to observe God’s qualities at work in our lives. Let kindness proliferate, spreading in a contagious, feverish manner! “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24b).

Goodness could easily be overlooked in the gift shop, so common it tends to ring hollow from frequent good intentions. In a world saturated with sin and evil, God promotes excellence of character, reliability, and righteousness, all wrapped up in a package of goodness. Jesus personified goodness when He walked the earth. “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you” (Psalm 31:19). 

Faithfulness is an affluent quality of God which He desires for all of His children to develop. “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23b), confirms God’s immeasurable trustworthiness. We can depend upon our heavenly Father’s great love and compassion extended to us new every morning. “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5), encompassing the entire realm of human existence. As we experience God’s unmitigated faithfulness, we yearn to appropriate loyalty in our spiritual lives. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Our Lord maintains dominion over all creation. His promises are magnificent and secure; His gifts sufficient and supreme.

No funds are exchanged in God’s gift shop. All of the His selections are sent special delivery from heaven straight to our hearts, triumphantly immersing believers in a life cycle of victorious living, For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Let his faithful people rejoice in his honor and sing for joy” (Psalm 149:4-5).

Rest for the weary

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

—Matthew 11:28-30, NASB

God Most Nigh

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

God Most Nigh

Understanding the mystery of God with us
December 10th, 2018
Ann-Margret Hovsepian

As the calendar ticks closer to Christmas, one of the first carols we sing at church is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It always gives me goosebumps, not only because the tune is so beautiful, but because I’m reminded that this name (also spelled Immanuel), assigned to Jesus about 700 years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14), means “God with us.” Some people mistake the meaning as “God is with us” (which is also true) but it is important to note that it’s actually “God with us.” The distinction matters: Though God had been with humans since the beginning, for the first time in history, God became a human. When Isaiah called this human “God-with-us,” he was hinting at the mystery of what the church calls the incarnation: Jesus Christ was God in flesh (John 1:14). God’s great sacrifice began thirty-three years before Jesus ever died on the cross, when God left the glory of heaven to walk this earth as a human being and live a life of humility, simplicity, and selflessness.

Consider using this article as an aid to understanding the incarnation better through Scripture. Pause over the Scripture references and reflect on what they are teaching you about Jesus, God with us.

Fully God

Jesus’s deity—the fact that he is God—is paramount to our Christian faith. Many skeptics stumble over the claim that Jesus and God are one and the same. The Gospel writer John, one of Jesus’s closest friends, claimed that Jesus was with God at the beginning of time, and that in fact Jesus was God. John said that the whole world was made through Jesus. He called Jesus both “the only Son” of God (John 1:14) and “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18).

If John’s radical claims are true, they change everything. If Jesus was not God in the flesh, he could not have stepped in as the perfect and blameless sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. If he had been merely a human being, his death would have been tragic but fairly insignificant, especially because he would not have risen from the dead three days later. Jesus lived a human life, but he did not have a human father, so he did not inherit the sin nature we are all born with. Jesus lived in a way that perfectly followed all of God’s commands—something no human had ever been able to do. Thus, he was able to overcome death and offer salvation to all who believe in him. The book of Hebrews tells us that “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). (See also Hebrews 9:14-15 and 10:12-14.)

Read the rest here.

Always Let Your Bible Be Your Guide

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Always Let Your Bible
Be Your Guide

It’s not wise to allow movies to inform our theology. I grew up with the Jiminy Cricket quote: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” In the children’s movie Pinocchio, Disney’s dapper cricket danced and sang, encouraging the wooden puppet—along with the magical Blue Fairy—to follow his conscience as a moral compass for life. “Take the straight and narrow path,” Jiminy sang, “and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Was Jiminy right?

Culturally, the conscience is thought to help with decisions, and the conscience is considered to be rooted in good morals and virtuous character. Yet in colleges today, morals and ethics students debate what good “morality” looks like, and practical applications are open to interpretation.

A guiding conscience, in some situations, is more like a “be true to yourself” mantra than a moral compass for choosing what is proper, moral, or right.

Following True North

When hiking, if our compass is only one degree off course, we likely won’t arrive at our destination. A good, functional compass won’t be skewed; it will point “true north.”

The Christian’s moral compass points “true north” to the Truth of the Bible. God’s Word is the foundation for the believer’s moral and ethical behavior, and consequences are serious when our moral compass is not correctly aligned with God’s Word.

The Westminster Confession says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” God has freed us from submission to “doctrines and commandments of men” that are contrary to Scripture, that go beyond His commands or conflict with His wisdom principles for living.

God’s Word must reign supreme in our conscience! Our moral compass must be captive to biblical truth, not the whims of culture or even the fluctuating leanings of our hearts. As Andy Naselli wrote, “That voice in your head is not necessarily God’s voice. Sometimes your conscience may be theologically incorrect.”

In the Bible, Adam and Eve were the first ones to follow their own conscience, but their moral compass was not aligned with God’s words—His clear command (Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 6). The result was disastrous! Deceived, their human conscience allowed them to make a faulty, rebellious choice.

Read the rest here.

If Today Was Your Last Day

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

If Today Was Your Last Day

By Benjamin Vrbicek

We’ve all heard some version of the question, “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?” The question is designed to get us thinking about what truly matters and what doesn’t.

There is a helpfulness to this question, I suppose. I certainly don’t want to spend my last day before seeing Jesus perfecting my yo-yo technique or binge-watching Dora the Explorer.

But to be frank, I find the “last day” question paralyzing. It’s overwhelming to consider all the things that could possibly be done. How does one decide what’s the most effective, impactful, God-honoring thing to do when your toes are on the precipice of eternity? How could I know if it’s better to sneak into North Korea—should it even be possible—and preach the gospel, or to track down all my unsaved friends and family so I can preach the gospel to them? Maybe I should also drain my life savings so I can give it away—but who should I give it to?

I have no idea how to answer these questions. Besides, thinking about the most effective thing to do on your last day seems to me like the silly meme that gets shared online: “Jesus is coming; look busy.”

Does being prepared for the second coming of Christ merely involve some extraordinary acts of obedience moments before he returns?

According to Jesus, it doesn’t.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready for Jesus’ Return?

In the Gospels, Jesus frequently charges his followers to stay ready for his return. One such place is Luke 12:35-48. Through a couple short parables about different kinds of servants, Jesus illustrates for his disciples what it means to be ready.

Stay Dressed for Action

In this passage—contra the logic of the “last day” question—being prepared for Jesus’ return means doing the kinds of things appropriate for your context, however ordinary and mundane they might seem. If you’re a teacher, be found grading midterms to the glory of God. If you’re a Christian who works in a factory, be found working until the whistle blows.

Jesus commands, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (v. 35). The literal rendering of the phrase “stay dressed for action” is, “let your loins stay girded.” Back in the day, to have your loins girded meant that a man was ready to work because he had pulled his long, flowing robe around to the front and tied it tight so that it wouldn’t interfere with action.

Read the rest here.

5 Holiness Myths

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

5 Holiness Myths

What comes to mind when you think of a holy person? Some of us see the beauty of holiness lived out on a regular basis in our churches and homes. But others fail to see the appeal of a holy life lived out, either because they haven’t seen it in practice or because less-appealing counterfeits have filled their horizon. Sometimes it’s helpful to articulate what holiness is not in order to gain a clearer understanding of what it is and why we want it. Here are five false views that you may have encountered.

1. Holiness is an honorary status.

Some speak of saints as if they were some sort of extra-dedicated class of Christian, a select few who have earned a special status. But the Bible does not make this distinction. Paul calls all Christians saints (1 Cor. 1:2). He tells the Corinthians that they have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.” This is our position before God. We are sanctified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:11).

Because we are saints in Christ, we are to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” (Eph. 4:20–24). In other words, our practice should match our position. This growth in holy practice is what the theologians call “progressive sanctification.”

There are not two tiers of Christians. All Christians are saints, and all of us are becoming holy in practice.

2. Spirit-empowered holiness feels easy.

The idea that sanctification requires effort may seem unspiritual to some, but the Bible is full of athletic metaphors that encourage us to do just that. Paul told Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), and the author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for . . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Spiritual disciplines are essential for growth. As we study God’s Word and pray, our will and desires change to become more like Christ. As we daily resist sin and make God-honoring choices, we are working our spiritual muscles and making progress in the right direction.

Read the rest here.

A (Not So) Revolutionary Strategy for Great Quiet Times

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

A (Not So) Revolutionary Strategy for
Great Quiet Times

By Heather Pace

Bible reading and prayer are undeniable staples in the Christian diet. Yet as universal as the daily “quiet time” is, it’s interesting to note how few people feel successful in the endeavor.

Just ask a room full of Christians how many minutes they spent in concentrated prayer last week—and listen to the room fall silent. Ask how engaged they were in Bible reading, Bible memorization, or any type of Bible study—and prepare to hear the crickets chirp.

So many Christians live with the nagging feeling that time with God doesn’t hold the priority it should in their lives. They want to make progress, but they just can’t seem to master the art of quality quiet times. Worse, many start to think of their quiet time as the enemy they can’t conquer, instead of the life-giving friend it is.

Real Struggle

Why are quiet times such war? Perhaps it’s because of unrealistic expectations or lack of diligence. Maybe it’s because the quiet times others post on social media make ours look subpar.

Or what if we’re making the whole thing more complicated than it needs to be?

Angst about quiet times is often connected to barely having them. Imagine how successful you’d feel if you spent a little time in God’s Word and prayer every day for the next year. What if you didn’t let the busyness of life undermine your time at Jesus’s feet (Luke 10:38–42)? Without even speaking of “quality time,” a legitimate quantity would make a massive difference.

Besides, merely “checking the box” quickly moves beyond that motivation. God’s Word is so good, and prayer is so profitable that if we just commit to these practices, results will follow. A momentum will develop. Faithfulness will lead not only to built-in routine, but also to life-changing habit.

Here are three reasons why mere faithfulness works.

1. God’s Word Will Change You

The Bible has a way of convicting our hearts, correcting our thoughts, awakening our spirits, and changing our lives (Heb. 4:12). Psalm 19 says God’s Word revives our soul, brings wisdom, rejoices our heart, enlightens our eyes, and, of course, keeps us from sin (Ps. 19:7–11).

Read the rest here.