The Best Gift — Reconciliation

The Best Gift — Reconciliation

During the Christmas season, we consider the best gift for those we love. When God sent His Son, Jesus, He sent His best gift for us. What made this gift so perfect?

For a moment, consider the best gift you have received. It probably never came from a store and could never have been purchased with money. Was it the birth of child? Or special occasions with someone you loved? A friendship?

This may seem odd for most of you, but one of my most cherished gifts has been the last ten days of my mother’s life. Our relationship had always been rocky. We never seemed to mesh on anything, although we both tried. There were many misunderstandings, painful words, and harsh judgments. But during the last ten days of her life, when moments mattered most, God showed us great mercy and brought reconciliation. We talked, prayed, laughed, and loved. Those ten days proved richer than all the previous sixty years combined. I will be eternally grateful for that sweet gift.

Reconciliation. How deep the chasms of indifference, apathy, and misunderstanding grow! How humanly impossible to restore relationships so deeply severed!

But God! But God through His only Son, came to reconcile. First, to reconcile us to Himself. Then, to reconcile us to each other. Both necessary. Both impossible apart from Him.

“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 AMP

Reconciliation

We find it difficult to comprehend just how much “God so greatly loved and dearly prized” you and me. He would not rest until we were reconciled back to Him. The Oxford Dictionary defines reconciliation as the restoration of friendly relations, or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.

You see, we all begin life alienated from God — enemies in fact. We arrive bent, broken, and turned away from Him. Though He loves us deeply and desires a personal and intimate relationship with us, we carry on preoccupied, self-absorbed, and consumed by temporary things. Though He calls, we choose not to respond to Him.

It took something drastic to get our attention. It required extreme measures to bridge the gap between us. When reconciliation seemed impossible, He alone made the way.

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Romans 5:10

A Savior

Many outside the Christian faith live contented and unaware of their need for a Savior, believing that doing good is enough. Surprisingly, many within the faith maintain a false sense of security based upon the same reasoning. They go to church, serve faithfully, and even give financially.

If doing good was enough, there would be no need for Jesus, the cross, or the resurrection. But, doing good will never be enough to bridge the gap between holy God and broken humanity.

” . . . He has also set eternity in the human heart . . .”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

We all have an inner knowing that there is something more to life than what we now see. Though we live bound by the temporary and limited by time, God created us for eternity — an eternity with Him.

But why do “good” people need a Savior? Paul explained it this way,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23

We all sinned in some way. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we lie, steal, gossip, hurt others, live selfishly, disobey authorities, and a long list of other moral failures. No one meets God’s perfect standard. We all fall short.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

Separation

Not only does sin separate us from God, it results in more than a physical death, but an eternal separation from God. Therefore, we need a reconciler. We need someone to restore relationship and compatibility with God.

Each Christmas, we celebrate the coming of that One — the One who arrived as an innocent baby, lived a sinless life, died a cruel death as payment for our sins, and rose again to offer hope of an eternity. The innocent paid the price for the guilty.

The Bible tells us how.

” . . . For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation. The heart that believes in him receives the gift of the righteousness of God—and then the mouth confesses, resulting in salvation.
Romans 10:9,10 TPT

When we declare Jesus Christ as our Lord, believing that God accepts his death as penalty for us, we receive salvation. How unbelievably amazing is that? Jesus closes the gaps between God and us, reconciling us to the Father. The best gift becomes ours. Through Jesus, we become righteous before God.

The Best Gift

Many gifts will be shared this Christmas season — gifts expressing friendship, love, and family. But my greatest desire is that we would receive the best gift of all, the gift of reconciliation. I pray that we would receive the gift of eternal life which God offers us today.

Jesus already paid the full price! We cannot earn what He has already made available for us.

“So turn away from your sins. Turn to God. Then your sins will be wiped away. The time will come when the Lord will make everything new.”
Acts 3:19 NIRV

I anticipate the reaction of those I prepare gifts for. The giving only becomes complete as the recipient accepts my gift. The gift of salvation, the best gift of all, waits for each of us to receive it. To accept God’s perfect gift, we verbally declare our faith in Jesus from a believing heart. It is a simple but profound action.

The Savior waits for our response.

Jesus, thank You for Your salvation. I confess that I have sinned and could never meet God’s standard of perfection. I need a Savior. Forgive me, Lord, of my sins and failures. I believe that You died to save me and set me free. I believe that You were raised from the dead to give me eternal life. Come Jesus. I invite You to be my Lord and Savior. I thank You that You have become my best gift.

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Mark 11:24 — Believing Prayer: Pray With Faith

Mark 11:24 — Believing Prayer: Pray With Faith

Believing prayer forms a rock-solid foundation for every vibrant Christian. Jesus has already made provision for everything we need. We pray with faith, not in the power of our words, but rather faith in what Jesus already made available to us.

With the approaching Christmas season, I have been considering again the significance of Jesus’ coming. He fulfilled every requirement of the law and the Old Covenant, implementing the New Covenant. Jesus made a way for all those who believe in Him to come to the Father without sacrifice or religious ceremony.

What does this mean regarding believing prayer? Everything!

Let’s look at an incredible promise Jesus gave to each of us.

” ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:22-24

Say It!

Although faith makes room for silent prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to “say,” or speak, their prayers out loud. He emphasized disdain for anyone who used loud, long-winded, public prayer, attempting to inflate egos or elevate religious status. God knows our hearts, but we inform the enemy through our words.

In verse 23, Jesus uses two different Greek words for “say”:

  • The first comes from the Greek word epo, which means “to speak with authority, to command or order as a king or general.”
  • The next word “say” comes from the Greek word lego, meaning “to speak by linking together or expressing the heart and mind with words.”

A king doesn’t need to raise his voice to issue a command. Our humble voices carry the authority of Jesus Christ to bring God’s will into effect around us.

Jesus emphasized to His disciples that a person’s confident faith combined with God’s power could produce amazing results. When the request is in harmony with God’s will, God is fully capable of doing that which man regards as impossible.

“Jesus responded, ‘What appears humanly impossible is more than possible with God. For God can do what man cannot.”
Luke 18:27

So, we pray spoken, authoritative words, with a united heart and mind.

Does Not Doubt

Jesus calls us to combine authoritative voice with an undivided heart. The Aramaic word for “doubt” means “to be divided or undecided in your heart.”

Let’s reject the whispers of condemnation regarding why some prayers appear to go unanswered. Prayer will always contain an element of mystery. Through believing prayer, we bring our requests to the Father and allow our hearts to leave the results to His ways and wisdom. Sometimes the healing comes; sometimes it doesn’t. Often, provision unfolds, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, may all of our prayers be void of doubt! May believing prayer, birthed and immersed in faith, flow from a united heart of mind.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
James 1:6

James calls anyone who doubts “double-minded,” or literally having “two souls” — one of faith and one without.

Believe You Have Received It

Do I drench my prayers in the faith that God has already answered? Sometimes yes, but sadly not always.

Here rests the heart of Jesus’ promise to us.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:24

“You have received it!” Jesus declares! What? When? How? Everything we could every ask from God has already been provided through Jesus Christ. Everything!

Let’s take a quick look at the example of prayer Jesus gave His disciples and us.

“…Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13

Every aspect of this model prayer, we have already received! We approach God not as some distant cruel tyrant, but as our loving Father. Through the authority of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, heaven already invades earth’s corrupt domain. We already feast on daily manna, the Living Word. Every sin (past, present, and future) Jesus already dealt with through His shed blood. Jesus already broke all the enemy’s authority over our lives. We already live under the protection and provision of our King of kings and Lord of lords.

So as we pray, we do so with complete confidence.

One Condition

Both Matthew and Mark speak about one condition — our willingness to forgive others.

“That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive — only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”
Mark 11:24-26 MSG

Several months ago, God challenged me to refuse to entertain any negative thoughts toward anyone. Too easily, we allow critical thinking or judgments to swirl in our hearts and minds. Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible to have a pure heart in prayer while holding a polluted heart toward others. By freely and willingly forgiving every hurtful thing against us, we align our hearts with His.

May nothing stand in the way of us receiving His full promise. May believing prayer rise from knowing that we “have received” whatever we ask for according to God’s will. Through the prayer of faith, we reach into the treasure trove of God’s storehouse of provision already waiting for us.

Today, may we each grasp a greater awareness of all that God has made available.

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From “Misfit” to Beloved! Chosen and Loved by God

From "Misfit" to Beloved

Going from “misfit” to “beloved” requires more than a simple name change. To realize how loved and chosen by God we are reshapes everything!

“Misfit!” they called me. Whether within my family and outside, belonging seemed distant, often unattainable. I never quite fit in among the predominantly male student population in our one-room country schoolhouse. Nor did I quite measure up to family expectations and standards. The name “misfit” fit me well, eventually becoming an invisible internal compass, determining personal expectations, goals, and desires.

Even in adulthood, echoes of the nickname infiltrated relationships and clouded personal perspectives. Until one day, God spoke, not in audible words, but rather through deep impressions to a wounded heart, “I love you! I have chosen you!”

Have you heard Him whisper your name within your inner recesses? Have you sensed His loving Presence?

“Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow (and) said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
Isaiah 49:1-3

Was Isaiah referring to God’s call over his life. Or was he speaking of the nation of Israel or to the ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ? Perhaps all three and more! All who are “hidden in Christ”, who have a personal relationship with Him, can identify.

God knew each one of us “from our mother’s womb.” He continues to speak our names, wooing us close.

Chosen

I love these verses. Before conception, God has a plan for every life. No one enters the world by mistake or arrives by chance.

Alone

We may legitimately place our names in this passage. I have used The Passion Translation as an example. Insert your name where I have inserted mine, then read and reread it. Allow the truth of God’s sovereign love and care to permeate our hearts.

“Listen to what I have to say, you islands. Pay attention to me, you who live in distant lands. Yahweh called (MaryAnn) as his own before (she) was born and named (her) while (she) was still in (her) mother’s womb. He gives (her) words that pierce and penetrate. He hid (her) and protected (her) in the shadow of his hand . . . prepared (her) like a polished arrow and concealed (her) in his quiver. And he said to (her), “(MaryAnn), you are my special servant; in you I will be glorified.”

If this seems like a stretch, it really isn’t. The Bible says that when we believe in and confess Jesus, we become hidden in Him.

“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

It is a profound truth. God loves the unlovely. He chooses the misfits, renegades, and outcasts. In Him, we all find belonging, family, identity, and purpose. Before, any of us proved ourselves worthy, He loved us. Before conception, He knew us and chose us,

Loved

Nothing we did merited such grace. Nothing we could ever do validates His love. In our worst, He loved. Nothing can stop the reckless, indescribable love God has toward us.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:6-8

Lightbulbs Different

Jesus provided the ultimate demonstration of love to us by giving His life for us on the cross.

We all hold remnants of “misfit” stories — moments or seasons of profound rejection, cast-aways from the comfort or care of others. Isaiah again scribes a clear image for us,

“For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected.” says your God.”
Isaiah 54:5-6

Our husband calls us His beloved. He comes to us as our Maker, the LORD Almighty, the Holy One, Redeemer, and the “God of all the earth.” We have not been short changed! The One who knows us best — deeply and intimately more — loves us most.

Jesus tasted rejection. He, more than any of us, felt the sting of “misfit” — fully God, yet fully man. Divinity robed in human flesh. He understands. So, he reaches out with endless love to you and me.

Beloved

To be loved by someone is a privilege, but to be loved by holy, righteous, perfect God, is incomprehensible! To declare such things of ourselves would be presumptuous. But when God declares them, the truth becomes life-giving, sustaining, and powerful.

You are His beloved! One who is greatly loved!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ...” 1 John 3:1

Different Cubes

Right now, God greatly loves us. Right now, He secures us into His holy family as His chosen children. Not after we clean ourselves up or improve in some way, but right now. Now, He loves! He plays no favorites. Even though He loves everyone, only those who believe in Him and receive Jesus develop the capacity to truly experience it.

Receive

For those bearing the label of “misfit,” receiving love becomes a challenge. Thoughts of unworthiness invade the reality of His divine love, warping and twisting it. Far too many people carry the scars of failed commitments and broken promises, which mask the promise of love’s full potential.

Misfit Locker

When two people devote themselves to love each other in marriage, they often exchange rings as a symbol of enduring love. Though the rings may last, the pledged devotion too often fades — its essence cast away and discarded like an old garment. But not with God. God loves perfectly and permanently.

God speaks through Isaiah again, saying,

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . .”
Isaiah 49:16

God publicly demonstrates His lavish love for each of us, wanting everyone to see and know. Your name and mine, your identity and mine, He carves into His being. “Engraving” carries the sense of a commandment or decree. The engraving becomes God’s decree of His undying love and devotion before the entire world and throughout all ages.

A Prayer

You, too, can move from “misfit” to beloved. You, too, may experience God’s deep love. If this is your daily reality, then thank Him again for it! But if HIs love seems foreign, I would like to encourage you by faith to reach out, accept His love.

Dear Lord, thank You for loving me and making room for me in your family even before I was born. Thank You for offering me — the least, the misfit, the outcast — Your great love. Today, I simply receive Your love. May I experience the power and presence of Your love in undeniable ways. I possess nothing of earthly value to offer You in return. As You have loved me, I choose to love You. Thank You.

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