So, yesterday was my 60th birthday. Not that that means anything. Well, it means I'm kind of old, or at least my body is. Inside I feel more like a slightly mature teenager. You know, still willing to do crazy things but having the common sense to think about them before I do.
I was able to spend my birthday doing what I love to do. I spent it with my friends at work. Two of my closest "friends" sabotaged my office with "over the hill" balloons and a big sign that read "old fart zone." Nice. It drew a lot of attention. It was their way of showing me that they love me.
I was able to spend my birthday night with someone else I love - my wonderful wife. We've been reading a book together and finished it last night. As I reflect back on the book it was really the story of Joseph (that was the guys name in the book) and his mercy and forgiveness towards his brothers.
The night before, I was doing something else I love. Spending time with teens. They sang Happy Birthday to me and picked on me and my age for most of the night. I was called "old" and a "dinosaur" but it was all done in love. I felt so incredibly blessed, having so many friends telling me they love me.
This morning I got to thinking about gifts. Gifts given and gifts received.
When we become Christians, followers of Jesus, and we surrender our hearts to him out of love and respect for what He did for us on the cross, we receive His Holy Spirit - God's gift to us. Listen to the promise He made.
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." - John 14:15-17
What an incredible gift! To have God's Holy Spirit living in us!!
When we first come to believe and we receive His Holy Spirit in us, we become changed. It's like we had these seeds inside us . . . hidden gifts. They are called the fruit of the Spirit. They are like God's calling card - evidence that God's Holy Spirit is in us. When God's Holy Spirit enters us these gifts become enhanced.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23
One of the "spiritual gifts" that has been "programmed" into me is mercy. That means I have a great compassion for others who are hurting or are in need. That is why I have been moved to donate blood. That is why I volunteer at the local food pantry and at church. I enjoy doing those things because I am able to us my gift of compassion. It "feels" good. But WHY does it feel good?
When I was at church on Wednesday night I used my gift as I listened as three people share with me things that were hurting them, emotionally. If you look at those encounters from a heavenly perspective, I was given the opportunity to use my gift AS a gift. By using my God-given gift of compassion for others, I was in effect worshipping God by using the gifts He has given me. I feel good when I use those gifts because I doing exactly what God wants me to do and that makes me VERY happy. Does that make sense?
Good Friday is especially hard for most Christians. It is a reminder of all the gifts, and sacrifices, God has made for us. The birth and death of Jesus - gifts given to us out of love. How it must hurt God when we ignore these precious gifts . . . ignore the death of Jesus, His one and only son, who was sacrificed on a cross . . . like a common criminal . . . for us. Bearing OUR sins on himself.
"From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” - Matthew 27:45-54
Today is the day we as Christians recognize this most precious of God's gifts. It is through the death of Jesus, and his subsequent resurrection, that we ALL can have the gift of new life. Let us give Him thanks and praise for the gift of His precious Son.