Unredeemed ‘Gift’ [v215]

JANUARY 2017

For Christmas, one of the gifts I gave to my family members was a ‘gift card’—a very popular way for many people to do some of their Christmas shopping.

Statistically, almost 75% of all shoppers will purchase a gift card for friends and family—40% will buy one for a department store, and almost 35% will opt for one for a restaurant. In 2015 alone, consumers spent some $130 billion on gift cards, but according to estimates reported in the Journal of State Taxation, the typical American home has an average of $300 in unused or “unredeemed” gift cards. These cards are often misplaced, accidentally thrown out, or only partially redeemed. A gift card ‘exchange’ company, CardHub, estimates that the value of the unredeemed gift cards since 2008 is over $44B! (yes, billion with a “B”).

Unused card value (“breakage” or “spillage”) isn’t quite free money for retailers, however. Accounting rules mandate that companies can only recognize the revenue once a good or service is provided, so retailers consider outstanding gift cards as an “unearned revenue liability” on their balance sheets until customers redeem the cards. Some cards will never be redeemed, and many states claim rights to the value of these cards under laws regulating “unclaimed property.” Starbucks, a big gift card issuer, has nearly a billion dollars in card liabilities on its balance sheet!

However, these cards represent more than just a chance to buy something at a retailer. Consumers, thanks to some new laws, now have more options. For example, today there are several gift card exchanges that will pay cash for unused cards. Generally, consumers can expect to get 80 to 85 cents on the dollar in exchange for the gift card. However, another thing to note is that some cards charge fees, sometimes monthly, after 12 months of inactivity.

So, before you go out shopping the next time, I strongly suggest you take a look in those ‘junk’ drawers—there just might be an unredeemed gift card laying on the bottom of it. Then REDEEM IT as soon as you can!

 

Just as the retailers ‘need’ you to redeem your gift cards to receive any value from them, you have a similar ‘need’ to BE REDEEMED to receive any ‘value’ in your spiritual life. The thing is, Christmas is sort of the ‘start’ of God’s redemption plan for a ‘lost’ humanity.

The Bible says we are all born spiritually ‘blind’, and we live a life hopelessly in the ‘darkness’ of sin. It also says that anyone who sins even once—all of us—is headed for a ‘place’ called hell! The Apostle Matthew gives us a stern warning about this: “…and if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out’” [ Matthew 9:47-48 ]. Definitely not a place I want to visit!

But God, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), gave us the first ‘Christmas Gift’—His Son, Jesus. Having our sins forgiven, imputed righteousness, and eternal life with God in Heaven is the gift He will freely give to anyone who wants to receive it!: “For the wages of sin is death [Hell], but the gift of God is eternal life [Heaven] in Christ Jesus our Lord” [ Romans 6:23 ].

 

Although many times Christmas gifts are the result of a specific request from someone (usually children), this was not so with God’s Christmas Gift to us. His was an ‘unsolicited’ Gift. It wasn’t humanity who saw their need and asked for God’s help—it was God Who foresaw our need, and sent His Son to be the ‘propitiation’ for our sins.

So, the first ‘Christmas’, God gave the world the ONLY GIFT everyone really NEEDS—the substitutionary death of His Son, who came to meet our critical, eternal-life-threatening need prompted by our sins. “Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring [Jesus] from heaven has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” [ Luke 1:78-79 ].

How wonderful to think that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” [ Romans 5:8 ], and that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus can be made righteous—which then makes us ‘justified’ in front of God, and we become His ‘children’.

 

Now, I’m not implying that after one becomes a Christian we somehow live sinless lives, but I am saying that we no longer need to ‘yield’ to the power of sin. When we were redeemed, we received the Holy Spirit who now empowers us to turn from sin and embrace righteousness.

However, we will be ultimately freed from the presence of all sin. Heaven will have no sinners. There will be nothing that ‘offends’ God in His Heaven. The Apostle John gives us a glimpse of what the “Holy City,” the “New Jerusalem” will be like: “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” [ Revelation 21:22-27 ]. When one repents of their sins, and puts their trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, they are ‘written’ into the Lamb’s “Book of Life”!

 

So, what should we make of all this? Well, if the birth of Jesus has become for us simply another opportunity to gather the family to feast, enjoy one another’s company, and exchange some gifts, then we are missing the real meaning of Christmas, and the ‘fullness’ of joy God intends His people to experience—the settled contentment that comes from knowing that our sins have been redeemed, and that we have peace with God forever!

Do you have this peace? If this peace has eluded you during the past Christmas season, then it just might be time for you to make peace with God. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” [ Romans 10:9-10, 13 ]. God WANTS VERY MUCH for you to ‘receive’ His Christmas Gift to you! “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” [ John 3:16 ].

 

Christmas is a time of year for the giving of gifts. We purchase gifts for the ones we love, and then put them in beautifully wrapped packages.

Excitement builds as Christmas Day approaches, and those who have made ‘sacrifices’ are anxious to watch loved ones and friends open the presents.

Wouldn’t it be sad to see that after someone’s ‘sacrifice’ and expense, that some gift is unclaimed and unopened? How sad the giver must feel to think that the gift is not wanted!

That’s how God ‘feels’ sometimes. Yet the greatest gift of all, God’s Christmas Gift, Jesus Christ, is still unclaimed by millions!—and maybe even by you!!!

 

Perhaps there are some reading this post who have never trusted Christ as their Savior—you have never ‘received’ Him. If that be the case, let me urge you to trust Him now. Don’t wait another moment. The Bible warns, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” [ 2 Corinthians 6:2 ]. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is sufficient for all, but it is effective only to those who believe and receive.

The words believe and receive are used synonymously in the Scriptures. The Bible says in John 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” To believe is to receive. The Bible word “believe” means to trust, to depend on, to rely on. To “receive” God’s Christmas Gift simply means that one must admit that they are a sinner, believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins, and then trust Him completely.

 

If you would like to ‘give’ your life to Jesus right now, you can do it right where you are. There’s no magical words to say, you just need to believe in your ‘heart’ that God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, is God in the flesh, rose from the dead, and is alive today—and when He died on the cross, He took your place as your substitute sacrifice for your sins. If you sincerely believe this, then admit you are a sinner, confess your sins, and that you will trust Jesus alone for your salvation, committing your life to His service.

You could say something like the following (in your own words if you would like):

Dear Lord Jesus,
I understand that I am a sinner, and I can’t save myself. I sincerely repent of my sins, and ask You for forgiveness and mercy. I believe that You died on the cross as my substitute, paying my sin debt in full so that I could receive Your forgiveness and have eternal life. I ask You to come into my life right now and become my personal Savior. From this day forward, I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and ask you to send the Holy Spirit into my life, to take control, and guide me be the kind of person you want me to be. Give me a ‘new beginning’, and help me to live for You. Amen.

[ NOTE: Please email me if you have become a Christian—I would love to CELEBRATE with you, and help you get started on your ‘journey’ with Jesus! ].

 

So, have you ever experienced the ‘joy’ of giving a gift that was EXACTLY WHAT the other person wanted? (A gift card, for some, might get really close to that). That ‘perfect’ gift—one that would bring immeasurable joy to that special person who opened it? Well, I really like how the Apostle Paul was so overwhelmed at the thought of all that God has given us when he said: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” [ 2 Corinthians 9:15 ]. Other translations of this verse say, “inexpressible gift,” “unspeakable gift,” and “invaluable gift.”

 

So then, what is it that determines the value of something? There are several things that come into play, like workmanship, materials used, the satisfaction of the person buying, availability of the product or materials used, and the need of the product. If salvation or redemption were a commodity, it would rate very high in most all of these categories, with the exception of the last one—the need of the product. See, redemption, apart from most other things, is usually not seen as a ‘need’ by many people—well, at least not until it is often too late!

 

So, what should we be really thinking about Christ’s ‘priceless’ gift of redemption? Well, as the word indescribable suggests, no words can express it, no language can convey an adequate description of its value, and no heart can fully conceive of the inexpressible mercies which will result from it—an undeserved gift to humanity!

It is the mere benevolence of God. We have no claim to it, we don’t deserve it, and we can’t compel God to grant us a Savior. All our peace and hope; all our comfort and joy in this life; all our prospect of pardon and salvation; all the offers of eternal glory; and every other mercy should seem small compared with this ‘gift’—and all this should lead us to contemplate the source of it, and to feel, as Paul did, that all is to be traced to the indescribable gift of God. Jesus Christ, is God’s GIFT OF LOVE to mankind.

 

Some people have failed to ‘cash in’ on this gift. Like so many consumers, they put the gift of God away in a ‘drawer’, forget about it, and don’t make full use of its great value! As a Christian, we have the ‘riches’ of the Kingdom of Heaven at our disposal!

Just last year (2015), the U.S Supreme Court said it would not take up the case that would have given gift card holders of the then defunct bookseller, Borders, a chance to redeem them. So, all those gift cards are ‘officially’ WORTHLESS. (I’m thinking, if I was a large retailer, I would have offered to give the holders maybe 50% of its value on something like books and media—since there’s a huge markup on them—to get some new customers and some great free advertising, since the news media would have covered a story like that! Well, I digress).

Have you received God’s ‘Christmas Gift’ that you and everyone else really need? Don’t let this incredible ‘gift’ go UNREDEEMED!!! It is of ‘INFINITE’ WORTH! Jesus is most certainly the most precious, the most perfect, and the most priceless gift ever given—and it is FREE to be received! It is also the only ‘gift’ that truly keeps on giving!

 

[ Excerpts from: Pastor Frahm; Emily Bary; Sara Randazzo; Dr. John Barnett; Dr. Curtis Hutson; Guy Glass; Michael Stark ]

 

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RESOURCES:

God’s Gift of Christmas
By: John MacArthur

Christmas is about more than the birth of a baby. It’s about God becoming human so He could fulfill His promise to redeem us. God’s Gift of Christmas takes readers deep into the heart of that promise. The book’s tone is warm but authoritative. Chapter topics include:

The Incarnation
The Names (Jesus, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, etc.)
God, Mary, and Joseph (Jesus’ dual nature as man and God)
The Truth of the Nativity
The Fullness of Time
The Purpose (God’s Redemptive Plan)

https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Gift-Christmas-John-MacArthur/dp/1404104038

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Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
By: Nancy Guthrie and R. Kent Hughes

An anthology of Advent readings collected from the writings and sermons of 22 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers.

Between purchasing presents and planning travel, enjoying holiday pageants and attending parties, it is all too easy for Christmas to silence the sacredness and crowd out a quiet anticipation of the season’s truths. So when editor Nancy Guthrie decided she wanted a reflective book of Advent readings that would help her pause and consider the riches of Christ come to earth, she embarked on what she calls “a sacred adventure,” putting together such a collection herself.

The result—this special volume—draws from the works and sermons of classic theologians such as Whitefield, Luther, Spurgeon, and Augustine, and from leading contemporary communicators such as John Piper, J. Ligon Duncan, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, Skip Ryan, and Joni Eareckson Tada to beckon you and your family into the wonder of Jesus’ incarnation and birth.

With its high view of Scripture and its focus on the gift of Jesus, this lovely book is sure to ready your heart and mind for a fresh experience of “Immanuel, God with us” this and every Advent season. Open the cover and discover what Christmas was meant to be.

https://www.amazon.com/Come-Thou-Long-Expected-Jesus-Experiencing/dp/1433501805/

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One Incredible Savior: Celebrating the Majesty of the Manger
By: Max Lucado

A celebration of the One who changed the world when He came to earth as a baby boy.

This bestselling Lucado Christmas classic is now refreshed and updated with a new title and a beautiful new design. But the heart of the message―the miracle and wonder of the birth of our Lord―remains the same. Max combines warm, personal stories with the ultimate story―one that has reformed the world since Christ was born in a manger more than 2,000 years ago. One Incredible Savior will be a forever classic for generations to come.

https://www.amazon.com/One-Incredible-Savior-Celebrating-Majesty/dp/1400318300/

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Grace for You
By: John MacArthur

In the distance, a figure, just barely a speck on the horizon, slowly approaches his boyhood home. He hasn’t been there in years and is nervous about showing his face. Years ago he wished his father would drop dead, took his share of an inheritance, and lived a shameful life. With all the wealth squandered, his desperate poverty has driven him back to his father’s house.

At the same time, an elderly man, distinguished and handsomely dressed, sees a far-off silhouette. Could it be? he thinks to himself, not daring to let his hopes up, refusing to believe his son would ever come home. But what is a vague, repressed hope becomes the undeniable truth that his long-lost son draws near. He runs recklessly to meet him.

Grace for You, taken from Dr. John MacArthur’s best-selling book A Tale of Two Sons, explains the hidden dynamics of Jesus’ most well known parable, The Parable of the Prodigal Son. It gives you a brief but powerful look into the homecoming of the son, the unthinkable response of the father, and the often overlooked truth about the older brother who spurns his return. In these pages you will rediscover the depths of god’s redemption.

https://www.amazon.com/Grace-You-John-MacArthur/dp/1400202396/

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Christmas is a Gift: Unwrap the Significance of the Season
By: Paul Chappell

Christmas is more than an event…
It s a gift with your name on it. Through Christmas, we can experience God’s presence, know His peace, and live with His continual joy. Christmas is God’s love personally delivered through Christ to you.

Through the pages of this minibook, unwrap the infinite love God sent in the form of a tiny baby. Discover the difference the gift of Christmas can make in your life all year long.

Christmas Is a Gift includes verses on receiving the gift of salvation and can be used as a helpful Christmas outreach tool. Purchase for unsaved relatives, neighbors, and coworkers as well as for church-wide outreach during the holiday season.

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Gift-Unwrap-Significance-Season/dp/1598941844/

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Jesus: The Ultimate Gift: Especially From God to You
By: Lance Wubbels

This beautiful book reminds readers that the only important gift of Christmas is Jesus.

Through inspirational quotes, scriptures, and prose, Lance Wubbels offers a thoughtful look at how we can unwrap the grace and love of Christ. Jesus: The Ultimate Gift explores the wonder of the birth of Christ who came to give man what the Apostle Paul called “God’s indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

In the midst of the season’s busyness, appreciate anew God’s humble yet profound gift: “As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, we need to remember that all gifts are ultimately but a reflection of Jesus, who is the Gift. God became one of us . . . as a baby boy with a tiny smile and two ears and ten fingers and ten toes. Once we see Him for who He really is, we are never the same.”

https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Ultimate-Gift-Especially-God/dp/1404190090/

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The Gift of Christmas
By: R. Kent Hughes

It is a story of singular beauty and wonder—a story worth telling with the best of our creative gifts. It is the story of salvation.

This is the purpose of The Gift of Christmas: to retell the timeless story of Christ’s birth in a way that will speak today with unique power. To that end, the book combines fine art with thoughtful meditations on the biblical story by R. Kent Hughes.

It begins when the angel Gabriel appears to an old, childless man and tells him that his aged wife will bear a son who will prepare the way for the coming of the Savior.

It tells how the angel again appears to an astonished young Jewish girl, telling her that she, as a virgin, will conceive and bear the long-awaited Savior of the world.

It recounts the joy of Elizabeth and the magnificent song of Mary celebrating the salvation of the Lord.

And when The Gift of Christmas turns to the birth of Christ, the familiar, ageless story comes to life, revealing the true meaning of the Incarnation in an unforgettable way.

This is the gift of Christmas-the very Son of God—offered to all who will take the time to understand and accept what God has done to save us from our sin. With masterful art and writing, The Gift of Christmas celebrates God’s perfect gift, retelling the story of eternity with freshness and vigor.

https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Christmas-R-Kent-Hughes/dp/1581345305/

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Because of Bethlehem: Love Is Born, Hope Is Here
By: Max Lucado

Max Lucado loves Christmas. Let the sleigh bells ring. Let the carolers sing. The more Santas the merrier. The more trees the better.

He loves it because somewhere someone will ask the Christmas questions: What’s the big deal about the baby in the manger? Who was he? What does his birth have to do with me?

And the answers he’s found give us all hope. God knows what it’s like to be a human. When we talk to him about deadlines or long lines or tough times, he understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, we have a friend in heaven.

And Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. Because of Bethlehem, we have a Savior in heaven.

These are the heart shaping promises of Christmas. Long after the guests have left and the carolers have gone home and the lights have come down, these promises endure.

Let’s turn on the lamp, curl up in a comfortable spot, and look into the odd, wonderful story of Bethlehem.

Max has found a lifetime of hope. We will too.

https://www.amazon.com/Because-Bethlehem-Love-Born-Hope/dp/0849947596/

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When Christmas Came
By: Barbara Rainey

If you’ve ever wanted to hold on to Christmas the warmth, the generosity, the sacred amazement you will cherish this stirring exploration of its deepest and most lasting meanings. The substance of Christmas is revealed with life in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.

You’ll cherish this stirring celebration of Christmas’ deepest and most lasting meanings. Nestle deep into a simple meditation on John 3:16, and recapture the wonder.

https://www.amazon.com/When-Christmas-Came-Barbara-Rainey/dp/1602002487/

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The Redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge

Go from “Bah, Humbug!” to a Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas.

Is redemption possible for Ebenezer Scrooge? Pastor and author Matt Rawle believes so as he discovers the teachings of Jesus in the words of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Rawle dives deep into the dark, sad, greedy world of Scrooge and discovers a man in dire need of a second chance. Along with Scrooge, we meet the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future and in the process learn about living with and for others in a world blessed by Jesus.

Rediscover and reinvigorate your Christian faith this Advent and Christmas season and look at this familiar classic through the lens of faith.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czA4lI3Bb7Q

Ebenezer Scrooge is a man in dire need of a second chance. Is redemption possible for such a greedy, dark and sad character? The Redemption of Scrooge, from Matt Rawle’s The Pop in Culture Series, shows us how the teachings of Jesus can be found in Dickens’ Christmas classic. From the ghosts of Christmas past, to the Life of the present, and the resurrection of Christmas future, this Advent study will “bless us every one” and reinvigorate our spiritual journeys as we look at this familiar story through the lens of faith. A Leader Guide, a Worship Resources Flash Drive, a Youth Study, and a DVD complement the four-week study.

[ Abingdon Press ]

http://www.abingdonpress.com/product/9781501823077#.WGl9fmQrKCh/

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God’s Christmas Gift to You
By: Ray Pritchard

The true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus Christ, God himself, came to earth to be born into the human race. But why did he come?

Some believe that Christ came to give us an example of God’s love. Others say he came to be a shining example. Many people consider him the greatest teacher of all time. Still others believe he came to establish a new religion.

But Jesus, referring to himself as the “Son of Man”—a description he often used to show that he had taken on humanity—tells us exactly why he came:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” [ Luke 19:10 ].

The Son of Man came.
Almighty God has entered our world—“God with us” (Matthew 1:23). “The Word [Christ] became flesh [human]—and dwelt [lived] among us” (John 1:14).

The Son of Man came to seek and to save.
Isaiah 53:6, tells us that “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” No one had to teach us to run from God. We were born running! We all want to do our own thing!

The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Jesus did not come as a tourist or an educator or an itinerant philosopher. Jesus came as a Savior seeking to save “the lost,” those who were estranged from God by their sins. We are all lost without God—lost without hope, lost in a tangled web of sin.

If Jesus had never come to the earth, we would all be condemned because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

How bad is our problem? Sin has infected your mind, your emotions, your will, your intellect, your moral reasoning, your decision-making, your words, and your deeds. No part of your life is exempt from the debilitating effects of sin.

The best among us are still rebels in need of God’s mercy. We need salvation, not reformation. We need forgiveness, not lectures on morality. We need new life, not a new leaf.

And what we need, Jesus Christ, God’s sinless Son, came to earth to provide. He did it by dying on a cross—taking the consequences our sinfulness deserved. It was the only way God could give us the greatest gift ever—forgiveness of our sins and an eternal relationship with him.

Christ…suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. [ 1 Peter 3:18 ].

Three days later Jesus rose from the dead, proving his supernatural mission had been accomplished so “the lost” can be saved! When we truly believe that Jesus died and rose again for us, that very moment all our sins are fully pardoned.

Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [ Acts 10:43; Romans 6:23 ].

Like all of mankind, you are a sinner, but Christ’s seeking includes you, and he wants to forgive you for all your sins. Believe in him as your Savior today!
If you believe that Jesus is the only way to God, simply tell God in your own words. You may want to express your trust in Christ with a prayer like this:

“Dear God, I admit that I’m a sinner in need of your forgiveness. I truly believe that when Jesus died on the cross he was taking the punishment I deserve for my sins. I’m also convinced that Jesus is the only way my sin debt can be paid. I humbly accept your wonderful offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Thank you for seeking me and saving me from my lost condition. Amen.”

https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Christmas-Gift-Proclaiming-Gospel/dp/1682160807/

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“FRUITS OF THE BEATITUDES” WEB SITE
(The ATTITUDES of Jesus that produce the CHARACTER of Jesus)

CLICK ON THE LINK to view:
http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/

FACEBOOK PAGE:
https://www.facebook.com/FruitsOfTheBeatitudes/

[ Mark Besh ]

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[ P.S.: If you would like to investigate further about how God wants to give you the ‘gift’ of the pardon of all your sins, visit the following link:
http://www.thesearchformeaning.net/sfm_pres/sp_q9_d4_1of10.html

 

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v215) for JANUARY 2017

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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ARTICLES:

45 GIFTS JESUS GIVES YOU

God has promised so many gifts for His children. Here are just a few.

Gifts from Romans 5:

1. Justified by faith (v. 1) We have a right standing with God because we have been declared righteous before Him. This is a legal verdict, and it includes: pardon from the guilt and penalty of sin; imputation of our sin to Christ’s account; our sins no longer counted against us; Christ’s righteousness credited to our account; and God declaring us “righteous,” solely on the merits of Christ’s righteousness.

2. Peace with God (v. 1) We are no longer God’s enemy. “God has declared Himself to be at war with every human being because of man’s sinful rebellion against Him and His laws. But the first great result of justification is that the sinner’s war with God is ended forever.” (John McArthur)

3. Access to the Father (v. 2) The access that was unthinkable in the Old Testament is now made possible through Jesus Christ.

4. Stand before God in grace (v. 2) In God’s saving grace, we enjoy a permanent, secure position. We also have sanctifying grace, sustaining grace, enabling grace, and suffering grace. Our position is not based in our own performance, but in God’s.

5. Hope of the glory of God (v. 2) “Hope” does not speak of uncertainty, but of something that is certain, but not yet realized. Our ultimate destiny is to share in the glory of God.

6. Suffering and tribulation (v. 3) Trials are the “pressure” that, like a “juicer,” produces the sweet “juice” of perseverance, endurance, character, and hope. This gift comes especially as a result of our relationship with Christ or because we choose to do right.

7. Love of God (v. 5) is lavished on us, overflowing in us. Understanding His great love for us will result in overflowing love for Him.

8. The precious Holy Spirit (v. 5) He lives in us: “God has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 5:5). The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, comforts us, makes Christ known to us, teaches us the truth, and guides us.

9. Saved from God’s wrath (v. 9) Christ bore the full fury of God’s wrath against us and our sin.

10. Reconciled to God (vv. 10-11) Formerly separated and alienated from God, we are now brought to a state of right relationship with Him.

Gifts from Ephesians 1:1-8

11. Adopted into God’s family (v. 4) God is our Father. We are children of God with a new nature, in a new family relationship. We bear God’s likeness.

12. Redemption through His blood (v. 7) This is a word picture from the ancient slave markets. A redeemer paid the necessary ransom to purchase the prisoner or slave’s release from bondage. We can sing, “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it, Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child, and forever, I am.”

13. Forgiveness of sins (v. 7) In the words of another song: “My sin–oh, the bliss of this glorious thought–my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.” Forgiveness leads to joy: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Ps. 32:1) Because of the blood of Jesus, God is faithful to forgive our sins–past, present, and future (1 John 1:9).

14. Purpose for living (vv. 12, 14) We exist “for the praise of His glory.”

Gifts revealed in other scriptures:

15. The righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) Christ’s righteousness comes in exchange for our sinfulness.

16. Christ in you (Col. 1:27; Gal. 2:20) He is our “hope of glory,” and the perspective of our lives is “no longer I, but Christ.”

17. Life (1 John 5:11-13) We have eternal life, which speaks of its quantity (length), and we have abundant life, which speaks of its quality. We are spiritually alive because we are in relationship with Jesus, partaking of His life.

18. Mercy (Ps. 103:10-11) God does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities. We will experience His unmerited mercy throughout our entire life.

19. The peace of God (Phil. 4:6-7) God’s peace, which comes as a result of prayer, stands guard in our hearts and minds.

20. Joy (Ps. 16:11; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 4:13,14) In God’s presence, there is “fullness of joy.” Far more than earthly happiness, we receive “exceeding joy,” a joy not based on circumstances. There is even joy as we endure trials of our faith, partaking in Christ’s sufferings and reproach.

21. Victory over sin (Romans 6:6-23) We are “freed” from the power of sin. When we reckon ourselves to be “dead” unto sin (crucified with Christ), and yield our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness, we are no longer under the dominion of our flesh.

22. The Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Romans 12:5) We instantly have countless “brothers and sisters” in the family of God and are “members one of another.”

23. Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-7; 1 Peter 4:10; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:7, 11-16) Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts-which are to be used to glorify God and edify the Body of Christ.

24. Future glory (Rom 8:17-18) As heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, we will be glorified in heaven.

25. Two great intercessors (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34; Rom. 8:26) Jesus intercedes for us in heaven, and the Holy Spirit intercedes within us.

26. The power of God (Eph. 1:18-20) We begin to understand how God uses His exceedingly great and mighty power on our behalf.

27. Prayer (Heb. 4:16; Phil. 4:6) We are encouraged to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” and to let our “requests be made known unto God.” Remember: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit… when we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

28. Wisdom (Prov. 2:6; James 1:5) Man may have knowledge, but true wisdom comes from God. He enables us to see from His perspective. Want more wisdom? “Ask of God.”

29. A home in heaven (John 14:2-3) Christ is preparing a place for us in our Father’s house.

30. Freedom from fear (Ps. 23:4) God’s presence makes all the difference in the world. Because God was with Him, the Psalmist said, “I will fear no evil.”

31. No condemnation (Rom. 8:1) While the Law condemns, there is no condemnation in Christ, our Deliverer.

32. An advocate (1 John 2:1; Rev. 12:10) We have a defense attorney in heaven: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” Jesus defends us against the prosecution, Satan, who accuses believers day and night.

33. Future rewards (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) Rewards will be given for faithfulness and for service.

34. The presence of God (Matt. 28:20; Heb.13:5b)-His loving presence is continuous: “I am with you always.” The changeless Christ will never leave or forsake His own.

35. The Word of God (Ps. 119:105; John 17:17; John 15:3) Not only is the precious Word a light to illumine our path, it also sanctifies and cleanses us.

36. Provision (Ps. 37:25) The Psalmist said, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” God’s provision is expressed in a powerful church hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”–“All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.”

37. Guidance (Psalm 23:3) David said, “He leads me in paths of righteousness . . .” All we have to do is follow and obey.

38. Protection against the enemy (Ps. 121:1-8; Eph. 6:10-17) God, who never sleeps and is always watching over us, gives us His armor for protection, and His presence preserves us from evil “evermore.” God gives us victory over Satan.

39. All spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

40. He restores my soul (Ps. 23:2-3) “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

41. A future inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4; Eph. 1:13; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:21-23) Christians will receive “an inheritance that is imperishable” and “kept in heaven.”

42. Kept by God (Ps. 121:5-8; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24) God’s power will keep us from all evil.

43. Life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) God’s power gives us “all things pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him.”

44. Great promises (2 Peter 1:4) God has “granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of this divine nature.”

45. Call to ministry (Gal. 1:15; Eph. 3:7-8; 1 Tim. 1:12) “He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.”

[ Nancy DeMoss ]

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REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND

VERSE 1:
I know You had me on your mind
When You climbed up on that hill
For You saw me with eternal eyes
While I was yet in sin
Redeemer Savior Friend

VERSE 2:
Every stripe upon Your battered back
Every thorn that pierced Your brow
Every nail drove deep through guiltless hands
Said that Your love knows no end
Redeemer Savior Friend

CHORUS:
Redeemer, redeem my heart again
Savior, shelter me from sin
You’re familiar with my weaknesses
Devoted to the end
Redeemer Savior Friend

VERSE 3:
So the grace you poured out on my life
Will return to You in praise
I’ll gladly lay down all my crowns
For the name of which I’m saved
Redeemer Savior Friend

[ Words and Music by Darrell Evans and Chris Springer ]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43TramhzBy8

*****************************
GIVE JESUS YOUR BEST THIS CHRISTMAS

““They bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their gifts and gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 NCV)

For the past 56 years my family has kept a tradition of holding a “birthday party for Jesus.” It started when I was 3 years old and asked my mom, “What is Christmas?” My mom told me it was Jesus’ birthday. With terrific 3-year-old logic, I said, “We should have a birthday party!” And we did, complete with a birthday cake, Kool-Aid, songs, cake, and candles.

We’ve kept that tradition going for four generations now. The birthday party for Jesus has become a sacred time where we read the Christmas story and share what we’re grateful for and what we’re giving Jesus, which is one of the most memorable parts of the celebration.

Often, Jesus gets shut out during Christmas. Imagine I planned a party for you and invited many people. Everyone brings lots of gifts, and the invitees trade presents with one another — and you get nothing.

That’s Christmas. We give gifts to everyone but Jesus. But let’s be honest, what do you give the God who has everything?

Actually, Jesus doesn’t have everything. There are four things he doesn’t have unless you give them to him this Christmas:

Give him your trust:
Faith is a voluntary matter. Jesus doesn’t have your trust unless you give it to him. He will never force it.

Make Jesus first place in your life:
If anything or anyone other than Jesus holds first place in your life, it’s an idol. This Christmas, choose to make Jesus first in your finances, interests, relationships, and schedule— and even in your troubles.

Give Jesus your heart:
Your heart is what you love, what you value, and what you care about most. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34 NIV). One important way you give Jesus your heart this Christmas is by giving your resources to his work. Jesus doesn’t need your money, but he wants what it represents — your heart.

Bring other people to Jesus:
God wants a family more than anything else this Christmas. He wants children who choose to love and trust him. It is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Invite someone to Jesus this Christmas. Tell someone about what Jesus has done in your life.

The Bible tells us that the Wise Men didn’t give Jesus their leftovers when they visited him on the first Christmas but instead gave three very significant and valuable gifts: “They bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their gifts and gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 NCV).

As you give Jesus your trust, make him first in your life, give what you value to his work, and bring other people to him, you’re giving him gifts far more valuable than the ones the Wise Men brought.

So tell Jesus “happy birthday” this Christmas. Give him your best.

[ Rick Warren ]

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REDEEMED, HOW I LOVE TO PROCLAIM IT

Redeemed — how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my blessed Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long;
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.

[ Old Hymn – Performed by Carroll Roberson ]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm7sy-hmYnw

*****************************
YOUR BEST CHRISTMAS EVER?

Don’t miss the best gift you can receive this year…

Christmas. Potentially exciting, stressful, lonely, beautiful. Lots of emotions. Sometimes lots of drama.

What if you could experience an honest joy during Christmas, no matter what else happens around you? It’s possible.

Let’s step back in time. Clear away the commerce and materialism. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Why celebrate him?

He wasn’t a king. Nor wealthy. He didn’t overthrow governments or conquer lands, or create anything in the arts or commerce.

He was born to a carpenter’s family in the obscure town of Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem.

However, Jesus did claim to be God.

He proclaimed people forgiven of their sin. He offered people life “more abundantly” now, and eternal life in heaven as his gift because, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”1 He did not present himself as merely an option.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”2

Lofty statements.

A lot of people are comfortable giving Jesus the status of an inspired teacher, maybe even a prophet. But what if this Jesus, whose birth we celebrate, is really the Messiah? What if this was God among us, in human form, just as all the Old Testament prophets described?

The prophet Micah said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. David said he would be one of his own ancestors. Isaiah said he would minister in Galilee and die by torture. And on and on, well over 100 specific prophesies to help people identify the coming Messiah. Jesus fulfilled every one of them. The chance of any person fulfilling even eight of these prophecies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000.3

“At a Bible study I met a Jewish woman who told how desperately she had prayed every day that she would find the truth about how to have a personal relationship with God. The very thought that Christ might indeed be the Son of God, the Messiah, frightened her. ‘O God,’ she often prayed, ‘please be anyone but Jesus!'”4 But in her search, everything indeed pointed to Jesus, and today she gladly calls herself his follower.

What draws people today in India, China, the Middle East, people throughout the world, to worship this Jesus? What is so appealing about him?

At first people followed Jesus because of his compassion and the miracles he performed to meet peoples’ needs.

He gave sight to the blind. He made the lame beggars walk. Because of him, the mentally ill could think soundly. We’re told, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages…healing every disease.”5

And Jesus’ healing went beyond the physical. There were deep emotional needs he met. To a paralytic man, Jesus said, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” People bristled at Jesus’ comment, “This is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus responded to them, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…he said to the paralytic, ‘Take your mat and go home.’ And the man got up and went home.'”6 That kind of settled it.

To a woman who was in her sixth relationship, after having five husbands, Jesus challenged her to know God’s love so that her thirst for love would be satisfied. To others he offered peace in the midst of difficulties. “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”7 He positioned himself as stronger than our problems, capable to meet our needs.

Who wouldn’t want to be declared forgiven? Wouldn’t you want all your sins erased? Who wouldn’t want peace or joy? Jesus talked about giving people a whole new life. Prophets and teachers couldn’t do this for them, but Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”8 No wonder people followed him.

But there is more to Jesus than what he offers us. There is an authenticity to his character, to his words, which gave people then, and people today, reason to trust him.

When confronted, he invited his greatest critics to point out whatever sin they saw in his life. And they were speechless. One time soldiers were sent to arrest Jesus and they came back empty-handed. When their superiors demanded an explanation, the guards simply said, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”9

In the midst of a raging storm at sea, Jesus made the storm cease immediately at his command. The others in the boat “were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?'”10

Jesus plainly said who he was. “I and the Father are one. If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them…know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”11 Did his audience understand his message? Absolutely. “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him…he called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”12

Jesus so thoroughly equated himself with God that he said to know him was to know God13, to see him was to see God14, to believe in him was to believe in God15, to hate him was to hate God16, and to honor him was to honor God.17

Now I should interject here, a former die-hard atheist is writing this. I thought people believed in God simply out of need. I was stunned when someone showed me clear, scientific evidence for God’s existence, and equally impressive facts supporting Jesus being God.18

Part of enjoying all the celebration of Christmas is understanding who was born that day.

The Christmas carols suddenly take on more punch. “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.” Jesus was not another prophet or great teacher. This was God revealing himself to us as one of us.

The question is why did Jesus come to earth? What was his agenda, his purpose?

You know how life at times can seem lite, without real meaning? Even at Christmas we can finally receive the gift we’ve wanted since July, but life can still lack depth. That’s because God created our lives to be most fulfilled by being in relationship with him. Jesus gives us that relationship. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”19

To be honest, a lot of people try to approach God the wrong way. They try to earn God’s acceptance by living a “good” life. Then they reason with him. “God, I’ve tried to be a good person. I’ve tried to be kind and generous. I’ve sometimes gone to church. I’ve prayed. And I’ve never murdered anybody.” Sounds good.

But Jesus said we need to know what his standards are. Just how good a life would we have to live? Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”20

Let’s be brave and see how perfect we are.

Imagine trying for an entire day not to be judgmental. I’d have to totally avoid contact with all people for the day, especially…oh, never mind. But let’s assume you’re living and breathing, engaged in conversations and noticing what people are saying. Can you listen to someone’s list (for the 37th time) of how much they drank last night, AND totally stay clear of thoughts like, “When will you get a life?”

Or how would you do with a very diverse group of people engaging in a discussion about abortion, civil rights, homosexuality or religion? Think you could refrain from a condescending, harsh comment? Yes? How about your thoughts? Sometimes we judge someone instantaneously, almost without thinking. Imagine your prof walks into the room with orange pants and a green corduroy blazer in May. For some, that’s not engaging your imaginations, that’s reality. But, do you laugh at him with your buddy? What if your professor is going through chemotherapy, and has no money? You just judged him.

Okay, let’s ease up on the guilt.

Let’s pretend you tried hard, were very focused and didn’t harshly judge someone all day. Wouldn’t it irritate you to hear so many other people’s judgmental comments throughout the day? I know that if I were trying that hard, I’d develop a very self-righteous attitude, which also would not line up with God’s standard of perfection. The Bible says we all sin. Not a surprise to me.

But what did surprise me is that the Bible states that my sin has separated me from God. It’s like an impenetrable wall. The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death,”21 or eternal separation from him.

Number one on Jesus’ agenda for coming to earth was to pay for our sin. The Bible says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”22 It’s like the woman who was arrested on a drunk-driving charge. The judge ruled thirty days or $1,500 bail. As the woman was agonizing over this, the judge stepped around to the front of the bench, pulled out his checkbook and paid the $1,500 fine. Why? The judge was this woman’s father. As an honest judge he couldn’t overlook his daughter’s guilt. But as a loving father, he paid the penalty for her.

If we could have gained a relationship with God based on our living a good life, Jesus didn’t need to come to this world, and he certainly didn’t need to die on a cross for us.

But out of tremendous love for us, Jesus was tortured, whipped, nailed to a cross and died of slow suffocation. Three days later he rose from the dead. Having done so, he now offers us complete forgiveness and a relationship with him.

The catch is we must individually accept his gift. I used to think a relationship with God is something that just “happens” to a person or it doesn’t…like winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. But actually it’s a personal decision.

God offers us a relationship with himself, and it’s our decision whether or not to respond to his offer. Jesus put it simply, “I stand at the door [of your life] and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him.”23

When we respond to this offer and ask him to come into our lives, we begin a relationship with God that lasts eternally. The Bible states, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life.”24

Instead of knowing about God, we begin to know him personally. We begin to see his unconditional love for us.

God has said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.”25 Whatever issues or circumstances arise in our lives, we have hope, knowing God’s power, certain of his love.

Opening the door and asking him to come into our life doesn’t mean suddenly becoming religious. It means having a relationship with God, at his invitation. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”26

Since my background is in advertising, I don’t want to be guilty of “overselling.” So let me pose this question: To accept God’s gift of forgiveness and a relationship with him, would it mean life will suddenly get easier? No.

For example, one Christmas, I was eight months pregnant with our first child, and things were not going well. In the course of the pregnancy, I was told there were serious health concerns about the baby. Looking at these complications, what did it mean to me that Jesus came to give us life more abundantly?

It meant that I knew the God of the universe, the One who had created my child and who infinitely loved me. I knew that God held my baby’s life in his strong hand. Shortly after Christmas, I went into labor to deliver stillborn a little girl.

I don’t cry easily, but for the next two weeks, I cried a lot. Yet in the midst of the sadness over our baby’s death, and throughout the traumatic pregnancy, God gave me his peace. Never did I experience turmoil, anguish or resentment, which would have been natural. But my heart was at peace.

I don’t know why God allowed our baby to die. But I do know that God has reasons, and they are kind and just. From all I’ve seen God do in my life, I knew he could be trusted. God fully protected us from depression over our daughter’s death. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”27

Whatever is going on in your world this Christmas, there is no better gift you can give yourself than to receive the One who came to earth and died on your behalf. He offers you complete forgiveness and the ability to know him on a personal level resulting in a more fulfilling life. He is God and he asks us to place our lives under his direction. As long as we rely on our own good life and ourselves we distance ourselves from God and we remain separated from him by our sin. He asks us to empty our hands of our efforts and instead receive his gift of forgiveness and a relationship with him.

I’d like to give you the opportunity right now to ask him into your life. You will never find a better offer, nor make a better decision.

I’ll help you put it into words. You could say to him, “Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins and paying the penalty. I open the door and invite you into my life. I want to know you. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me an eternal relationship with you.”

If you asked Jesus into your life right now, he promises to never leave you. Jesus said (speaking of us as his sheep), “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one can snatch them out of my hand.”28

I found that one of the best ways to get to know him better was to read the gospel of John, which is the fourth book of the New Testament in the Bible. You’ll be amazed. It seemed like Jesus was speaking straight to me, answering my questions, like an intimate chat over coffee. Also, you might find it helpful to look for a church where the Bible is taught. You’re welcome to sign up for our free email series on the Gospel of John.

There is no greater joy at Christmas, no more fulfilling gift, than entering into a personal relationship with Jesus. You could look forward to Christmas, not dependent on how your family acts or on what gifts you receive, but having the peace and joy that comes from having a relationship with God. Instead of just knowing about him, you can know him, personally, and understand what Christmas is all about…”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.”29

[ Marilyn Adamson ]

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MY REDEEMER LIVES

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide ’til evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well, I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testifies
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives, yeah

The very same God that spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I’m broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives

To take away my shame
And He lives forever, I’ll proclaim
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He’s alive and there’s an empty grave

And I know my Redeemer, He lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer

I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives

I know that, I know that, I know that, I know that
I know my Redeemer lives
Because He lives I can face tomorrow

I know, I know, He lives, He lives, yeah, yeah
I spoke with Him this morning
He lives, He lives, the tomb is empty
He lives, He lives, I’ve gotta tell everybody, yeah

[ Nicole C. Mullen ]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj-pZQ_XjyU

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GOD’S CHRISTMAS GIFT

Over the years, the legendary Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog has featured some pretty extravagant gifts. The 1963 catalog offered his-and-her submarines for $18,000. In the 1964 catalog, you could buy a hot air balloon for $6,000. In 1967, the catalog’s offerings included a pair of camels for $4,000. And in 1971, an actual mummy case was selling for $16,000. But this year, Neiman Marcus has upped the ante with a trip to outer space for $1.7 million.

Maybe a ticket to space isn’t at the top of your wish list this year, but perhaps you have certain expectations of what you hope to find waiting for you under the Christmas tree. If you put your hope in what Christmas offers, however, you will be very disappointed. But if you can get past that to what Christmas is really all about, it truly can be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

The wise men brought the rather unusual gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus. But the first Christmas gifts were not gifts to the Child. The first Christmas gift was the gift of the Child. Christmas, at its best and purest state, is a promise of something else, something that no holiday or experience or earthly thing can satisfy. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (NIV). Isaiah 9:6 offers a description of what God has given to us:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NKJV)

Each of the above descriptions of the names of Jesus deals with an important area of our lives. They are like five Christmas gifts we can open, and each is special and unusual.

First, His name is Wonderful. That takes care of the dullness of life. “Wonderful” comes from the root word “wonder.” The word used here for “wonderful” could also be translated “Amazing, surprising, astonishing, awe-inspiring.” And as I contemplate the fact that the Almighty God made this sacrifice for me, it will produce in my heart a sense of bewilderment, awe, and finally, worship.

Second, His name is Counselor. That takes care of the decisions of life. We all have very important decisions that we have to make. The God who is Wonderful wants to give us counsel and direction. God has a plan for each of our lives-an individual plan, not a one-size-fits-all plan. When you are overwhelmed with the decisions of life, remember there is a God who wants to counsel you.

Third, He is the Mighty God. That takes care of the demands of life. We need to be reminded that Jesus was not just a good man. He was the God-man. And this God who is Wonderful, this God who wants to be your Counselor, will give you the strength to live the life He has called you to live.

Fourth, His name is Everlasting Father. That takes care of the destiny of life. We believe in an Everlasting Father with no beginning and with no end. It reminds us that life on Earth is temporal, that heaven is so much better than anything this world has to offer. Also, this hope of an Everlasting Father resonates with those who have never had an earthly father. Because of what Jesus did for us, we can now refer to the Almighty God, Creator of the universe, as our Father who is in heaven.

Fifth, His name is the Prince of Peace. That takes care of the disturbances of life. Life is filled with disturbances and, quite frankly, Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Old problems are often brought back to the surface. Friction, stress, and problems you are having with various family members can be at the forefront of your life at this time of year. But here is One who is the Prince of Peace, One who will help you with the disturbances of life.

Whatever gifts you may have waiting for you this Christmas, they pale in comparison to God’s gift for you. It is better than anything the Nieman Marcus catalog could offer. It is the only gift that truly keeps on giving: the gift of eternal life.

[ Greg Laurie ]

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UNREDEEMED

The cruelest words, the coldest heart
The deepest wounds, the endless dark
The lonely ache, the burning tears
The bitter nights, the wasted years

Life breaks and falls apart
But we know these are

[Chorus]
Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
They may be unfulfilled, they may be unrestored
But when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see it will not be
Unredeemed

For every choice that led to shame
And all the love that never came
For every vow that someone broke
And every life that gave up hope

We live in the shadow of the fall
But the cross says these are all …

[Chorus]

Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
They may be unfulfilled, they may be unrestored
But you never know the miracles the Father has in store
Just watch and see it will not be
Just watch and see it will not be
[ Selah – from the album “You Deliver Me” ]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9kMYkYcT6w

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THE CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM GOD: GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS

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

Modern culture has been replete with a series of good news/bad news jokes. For example, there is the one about the pastor who stood up on Sunday and declared, “The good news is we have enough money here this morning to pay off the church debt and to build our new building.” Then he added, “But the bad news is, it is still in your pockets!”

When we come to Romans 6:23, one of the most informative and inspirational verses in the Bible, we find some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that “the wages of sin is death.” But the good news is that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Bad News
There is some bad news in this verse: “the wages of sin is death.” The Greek word for sin is best understood as “missing the mark.” The word picture describes an archer who shoots his arrow at the target and misses the bull’s-eye. We all find ourselves here as “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have all missed the mark, and the bad news is that its cost, or wage, is death.

A wage is what we get for doing something. We work a certain number of hours, and our employer pays us an agreed-upon wage. It is something we have earned, some- thing we deserve. It is something we have coming to us. The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death.” It is strange how many men and women sin, thinking it is going to pay dividends of fun and pleasure. But Satan is a liar. Sin pays its wage all right, but its wage is death, which is separation from all that is good.

Payday is coming someday. That is the bad news. When we miss the mark, it costs us greatly.

The Good News
But the good news is this: “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is a gift, a free gift that cannot be earned nor deserved.

We all remember the excitement of opening gifts as children around the Christmas tree. We did not have to pay for those gifts. We did nothing to earn them. We simply opened them and received them. A gift is the opposite of a wage. We earn and deserve our wages. We don’t earn or deserve a gift. If we did, it would be a reward and not a gift.

How is this all possible? We still have to deal with the bad news. Jesus made the way possible for us by dealing with the bad news Himself. Two thousand years ago on a Roman cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem, Jesus took the bad news and became sin for us. Yes, the wages of sin is death, and He died our death on the cross, paying the penalty for our sin. He paid the price, so now we can finish the verse with this good news, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He made a way out of no way. Our part is to receive this God-provided and free gift by faith alone in Him.

What a difference there is in these two bits of news. The bad news is that sin is costly, and it has a wage attached to it. The good news is that eternal life is free. It is God’s gift to us. And that is no joke!

As you memorize this verse, meditate on the incredible price that Jesus paid for your sin. When we were so undeserving, He made a way for us to receive the greatest gift ever given, “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

[ Dr. O.S. Hawkins – Excerpted from “The Joshua Code” ]

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MAN ON A CROSS
(Parody of “Man in a Box” by Alice in Chains)

I am a man on a cross—perishin’ in my sin
Won’t You kindly save me, please save me
Please, I cry—can You show me love?
Jesus Christ—can I be saved, sir?
He replies—you’ll be with Me
In Paradise—now you’re goin’ up

High on a cross with this thief—struck for those in sin
Won’t You kindly save me, please save me
See that sky—Heaven’s opened up
Jesus Christ—Divine Redeemer
He who dies—will be raised yet
We will rise—now we’re goin’ up

See me I’m crucified—death for both of us
(With) Jesus Christ—we died together
Read between the lines—in Galatians
He redeemed my life—now we’re goin’ up

[ ApologetiX – “Hot Potato Soup” album ]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFnjHoTSFjA

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DEEP THOUGHTS

“The greatest Christmas gift ever given wasn’t placed under the tree, but nailed to the tree.”
[ Author unknown ]

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”
[ C. S. Lewis ]

“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts: the gift of God to man – his unspeakable gift of his son Jesus; and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice and, like the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:5), first give ourselves to God. No one has kept or can keep Christmas until he has had a part in this two-way transaction.”
[ Vance Havner ]

“The greatest gift ever given wasn’t placed under the tree, He was placed on the tree, and His name is Jesus.”
[ Author unknown ]

“The greatest gift wasn’t wrapped in shiny silver paper, but wrapped in swaddling clothes.”
[ Author unknown ]

“Receiving God’s gift has nothing to do with being bad or good. It has to do with taking the gift. It’s that simple.”
[ Charles Swindoll ]

“He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.”
[ St. Augustine ]

“There is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees. We should not be anxious about baseless arguments against Christmas decorations. Rather, we should be focused on the Christ of Christmas and giving all diligence to remembering the real reason for the season.”
[ John MacArthur ]

“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”
[ J.I. Packer ]

“Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born king.” Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
[ Charles Wesley ]

“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
[ Corrie Ten Boom ]

“If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ. May God help us ourselves by the eternities that separate the Aucas from a Comprehension of Christmas and Him, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor so that we might, through his poverty, be made rich.”
[ Nate Saint ]

“Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again.”
[ George Whitefield ]

“Peace on Earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”
[ Helen Steiner Rice ]

“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father’s face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift.”
[ John R. Rice ]

“Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son.”
[ Charles Spurgeon ]

“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”
[ John MacArthur ]

“Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal man may live in eternity.”
[ John Huss ]

“May we not ‘spend’ Christmas or ‘observe’ Christmas, but rather ‘keep’ it.”
[ Peter Marshall ]

“All the Christmas presents in the world are worth nothing without the presence of Christ.”
[ David Jeremiah ]

“A quick summary of the Christian “Gospel”:
“JESUS’ PROPITIATION made our SINS FORGIVEN and IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS to us so that we have GOD’S ACCEPTANCE into His Heaven and ETERNAL LIFE.”
[ Mark Besh ]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”
[ Romans 3:24-26 ].

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

Mark

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If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

'Fishing For Souls' - LifesDeepThoughts.com

 

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