There’s nothing quite like the awareness of our own mortality to give us a change in perspective. I remember being hospitalized for nearly a month before my daughter was born three months early. Life had become complicated by a rare, life-threatening pregnancy. Each day the hospital chaplain would visit, and she would say, “Just for today.” We took things one day at a time. We couldn’t project the outcome for my daughter or for me. We could pray and hope while we waited to see. If we looked too far into the future, it might overwhelm us. So the chaplain would remind me each day, “You made it another day. Just for today.” Read more
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29
When my husband was in seminary in Dallas and in graduate school in Virginia, we were part of different small groups from our churches. We would sometimes be studying a passage of Scripture or a pertinent biblical topic. I rarely prepared by reading my Bible beforehand. I was always ready though with an answer and to share what I thought! This was based on what I had been taught or on my own logical interpretation of the subject in that moment, not from what I had studied on my own.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Late on Thanksgiving Day, after a long day of activities, I began to think of sleep. With all the cooking and preparing that morning, though, I had not spent time reading my Bible. During a day significant for giving thanks, I hadn’t paused to give God thanks.
I sat down with my Bible and thought of the words of James 1:17:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
I began to think of the gifts in my life, to name them and write them down, to be thankful and to recognize they are from God.
This listing of gifts caused me to wonder: are there specific gifts of God named in Scripture? I looked up “gift” in the concordance at the back of my Bible. Here are four that I found:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What have we been saved from? Earlier in that passage, it describes our trespasses and sins in which we were dead (Eph. 2:1-3). But God, rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ, and gave even so much more (Eph. 2:4-7). Saved by grace through faith—the gift of God.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
Along these same lines, Romans 6 also talks about being dead to sin and alive to God. It concludes with the contrast of death and life, of being in sin or being in Christ, and the amazing free gift of eternal life for those who know Christ.
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
With salvation through Christ and the assurance of eternal life with Christ, we can also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, God himself within us. This is a wonder too great to imagine! Other parts of Scripture explain the role of the Holy Spirit, and we also understand this reality more clearly as we experience it through faith in Christ.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
1 Corinthians 12 and following talks about spiritual gifts given to believers. Each one is given and empowered by God and has a necessary role in the body of believers.
Other Good Gifts
This morning I took a more comprehensive look at “gifts” in the Bible, doing a little more study than I previously had with my simple concordance. I saw that God is the giver of many other gifts. This could actually be a much greater study. But there is one gift that is greater than all.
The Gift of God Himself
Though God gives us many gifts, the gift of God Himself is the best one. The gift-giver is the ultimate Gift. We find Him when we put our faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. As we go on, it might be easy from time to time to long for other good gifts He can give and forget that He is both the Giver of the gifts and the Gift we most need.
Receive the Gift
Do you know this Gift? The Gift of God Himself?
Have you received the free gift of salvation that He has made available to us through Christ, through grace? Do you have confidence of eternal life in Christ? Are you experiencing the Spirit-filled life and exercising the spiritual gifts that God bestows on those who believe in Him?
If not, pray and tell God that you want to receive Him through faith in Christ, to be forgiven of your sins, to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and to believe that God raised Him from the dead. Call upon Him, put your faith in Him, repent of sin, receive the free gift of salvation, and rest in Him.
No fancy words are needed, no advanced level of understanding is required—just simple faith in the amazing God who made you, loves you, and died to redeem you.
And then begin to read the Bible to get to know Him more. Start with the Book of John or Romans. Go to a Bible-believing church that can help you begin to grow as a new believer. Tell a friend of your new life in Christ so they can encourage you. Keep seeking Him in prayer that He might show you the way to now live. And thank Him for the free gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ for those who believe on Jesus’ name.
As we enter this Christmas season, I can’t think of any better gift to receive. Thank you, Jesus.
Several years ago, I noticed while studying Genesis the repeated phrase, “lifted his eyes and looked” or “I lifted my eyes and saw.”
- In Genesis 18:2 “Abraham lifted his eyes and looked” when three men stood at his tent door, one maybe being the LORD, to tell him that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age.
- When Abraham had Isaac on the altar, after God stopped him from sacrificing Isaac, it says in Genesis 22:13-14, “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.”
- In Genesis 24:63-64, Isaac went out to meditate in the field and “lifted his eyes and looked“; Rebekah also “lifted her eyes” as God had provided a wife for Isaac.
- In Genesis 31:10, Jacob said, “I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream. . .” and in the dream, the Angel of God said to Jacob, “Lift your eyes now and see. . .” as God provided and increased Jacob’s herd. God blessed Jacob as he called him to return to the land of his family.
Each time, it seems to indicate God’s provision. It has made me wonder what I would see if I would just lift up my eyes and look, if I would remove my eyes from the circumstances around me and look up to God and see how He might be providing for the need at hand.
This theme of looking up continues throughout the Bible. Looking up might also astound me with the greatness of God! Isaiah 40:26 says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.”
Looking up might show me the needs around me. In John 4:35, Jesus tells his disciples, “…lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”
In John 17:1, Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven” when His hour had come. When the time had arrived that He came to this earth for—to do His Father’s will, to give His life for ours, to bring eternal life to those who believe on Jesus—Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven.
Hebrews 12:1-2 shows us that it’s in “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” that we find endurance to run the race set before us. It enables us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.”
I wonder today if we would lift up our eyes and see what we might find.
- Could God have a provision for us in a difficult situation that He wants to give us but that we can’t see if we don’t look to Him?
- Could we find endurance in running our race and freedom from sin which wants to entangle us?
- Could we discover new opportunities to point others to Jesus?
- Could we behold the glory of God as we see differently those things that otherwise might seem just ordinary or that we might take for granted?
- Could we look up in prayer and in reading the Bible to help us know and do our Father’s will?
The fall schedule is upon us, schools are starting back. For our family, I start back in my normal work schedule today, my husband and I are going to his faculty dinner to kickoff the new year, the kids are preparing for school, finishing their summer reading and more.
As we go through the routine, we don’t want to miss the glory of God, the opportunities before us, the provisions He makes for us, the ways He can transform our hearts and enable us to do His will. We want to lift our eyes and see! I pray we will all behold Him anew and catch a greater vision of our God as we begin another school year and a new season.
One of the things I’m most convinced of is the life-changing power of reading God’s Word regularly. When my kids were young, I had not become convinced of that. I felt I knew a lot of what was in the Bible, and it wasn’t a big deal if I couldn’t find time for it with the demands of being a mom. I did, however, find plenty of time for my baby books and magazines! (I suppose we find time for what matters most to us!) I wondered why my friends were always running off to a new Bible study. And when I would hear my friend pray the Scriptures, I would think it showy.
I certainly wasn’t hostile to the Bible though. I believed it to be true. But that belief hadn’t moved me to action, and I had a pride of thinking I knew it all anyway. I had a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but other people can only give you that information for so long. At some point, you have to embrace it on your own and do something with it. It wasn’t transforming me in the way it could if I read and studied on my own.
What I found, though, was when I began to read and study the Bible consistently every day, seeking the Lord in prayer, my life began to change. It’s like a child beginning to grow up. You don’t notice their physical growth every day, but if you see a child a year or two later, how surprised you are at how they have grown! We don’t necessarily recognize or experience that spiritual growth each day, but it is happening, and then moments will come where you see how God has been transforming us! And this ongoing process of growth will take place as long as we live!
About 14 years ago, when I first began to read the Bible each day through joining a Bible study with friends, I thought what I was learning was really good. I was surprised by how it spoke to certain situations I was going through. Gradually, little by little, I was starting to have more of a desire to read the Bible than to do other things, like watching TV. (Note: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with watching TV, but for me at that time, I really watched too much. It was the way I relaxed in the evenings after putting the kids to bed.)
One evening, after cleaning the kitchen and after everyone was asleep, as I began to sit down to watch whatever was on TV that night, I thought I haven’t done my Bible study today. I could do that instead. But I quickly dismissed it with this thought: Oh, but it’s been good the last few days, but it’s already helped me with everything I’m going through. There’s really nothing more it can say to me right now.
I’m still shocked by that arrogance and lack of understanding and expectation of what God’s Word said and could do! Today I know that going to the Bible is to worship and behold God and see what it says first about him, then me in light of that; to understand the Scriptures as I observe, interpret, and then apply to my life; that God’s Word is living and active and can speak anew each time by the power of His Spirit at work. But such it was at that time, and God was patient with me, to teach me slowly and guide me faithfully by His Spirit.
As I sat down to watch TV, on what had seemed to be a quiet evening with calm weather, a huge thunderstorm came up seemingly out of nowhere. I still held a slight fear of storms because of this incident, so as the power flickered and warnings came on the TV, I jumped up and decided I should prepare. I thought I should get ready for bed and light all the candles in case we lost power. And once that was done, I thought maybe now I will do my Bible study while I wait out this storm!
So there I was seated at my table, now dressed in my pajamas with candles lit all around me, ready for the storm, ready to read my Bible. I opened up the study book, and the title was, I kid you not, “Keep Your Lamps Burning.” The verse was taken from Luke 12:35-36:
“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.”
It sounds almost comical! There I was, now dressed in readiness (my pajamas), with my lamps (candles) lit! But it was such a picture to me of how I should be waiting for Jesus’ return, not wasting my time in idleness. And just when I thought I knew all that God could tell me through His Word, these perfectly timed circumstances arose to show me I really didn’t know all that much! I want to be dressed in readiness, with my candles burning—expectant, responsive, alert, faithful, sensible, obedient, serving the Lord as I await His return.
The junior high pastor at church preached on this passage yesterday, which reminded me again of this story. “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.”