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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Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First, we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.

My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments.  Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.

On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.

I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.

“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Numbers 21:5

Look Around

I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.

This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!

How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:6

We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!

Look to Man

Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”

“The people came to Moses and said,
We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
Numbers 21:7

It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.

God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.

The Serpent

The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.

A Savior

However, God doesn’t leave us helpless or hopeless, but provides a permanent solution to our temporary problems.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Numbers 21:8

Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.

“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Numbers 21:9b

Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:14-15

Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!

Faith Looks Up

“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.

“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer

Without faith there’s no approaching God, no forgiveness possible, no deliverance available, no spiritual life obtainable, no community of believers accessible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Hebrews 11:6

Jesus represented active faith. He looked up to the Father, doing only what He saw the Father do, speaking only words He heard the Father speak. When faith looks up everything else falls into place.

Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!

Eyes to See

The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.

Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.

“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:2

If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation, or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.

Seeing is believing! So, in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.

Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.

At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look up! Seeing is believing!