What a Gift!
By: Shadia Hrichi, cbn1.com
All of us, at one time or another, chooses wrong over right: to lie, steal, curse, or to be resentful, bitter, or jealous of another person. Because we are made in God’s image and created to be in relationship with Him, when we violate His character, we separate ourselves from Him and sever the relationship. Still, as a loving Father, God wants to restore this relationship and is willing to forgive even when we’re not sorry. Romans 5:8 says:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NASB)
God did not wait for us to come to Him; for God knew that left to ourselves, it would never happen:
“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, … There is none who seeks for God.” Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:11 (NASB)
And so, before the beginning of time, God arranged a rescue mission to extend forgiveness to those who didn’t know to ask.
Easter is the celebration of this amazing gift. 2,000 years ago, the Son of God willingly left the glory of Heaven and came to earth, wrapped in human flesh, to become the complete sacrifice for sin. Yet, when we look at the Cross, we often forget that Jesus suffered something far greater than physical death: He suffered spiritual separation from God the Father so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus laid bare His greatest agony when He cried out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
The eternal God-head was torn apart for us. The penalty for sin is not the Cross; that’s the symbol. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God, and only the eternal God could pay that price.
The greatest gift ever given is not God’s forgiveness that is now available to us, but rather God’s Son through whom forgiveness was made possible.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)
The person who looks upon God’s Son who, as He was being nailed to the Cross, said,
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34(NASB)
… and turns away, will not spend an eternity regretting his sin – that’s done and paid for. Rather, he will be left to agonize over all the ways God tried to reach out to him, reveal Himself to him, and demonstrate His love in an endless pursuit to have a relationship with him — that God even decided he was worth dying for — but he turned away … however:
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, …” John 1:12 (NASB)
On that first glorious Easter morning, the dark tomb was empty. God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, restoring Him to His rightful throne in Heaven, demonstrating God’s complete satisfaction that the penalty for all sin, for all people, for all time, has been paid in full. Easter is resurrection day! The day Christians all over the world celebrate that their relationship to God the Father, once dead, has been restored to life — and not just life, eternal life!
God wants to restore a relationship with you and He is only a prayer away. If you want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior – God’s greatest gift — you can pray a simple prayer something like this:
Father, thank you for loving me and sending your beloved Son to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying for me on the Cross. I am sorry for living my life apart from You and choose today to follow You. Please come into my heart and make me the person You created me to be. Amen.
And one day, when you enter your heavenly Home, you will run to your Father who will scoop you up into His arms saying, “Welcome home, my child!”
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB)
What love! What a gift! What an amazing God!
By: Joe Stowell, Strength for the journey
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Exodus 20:7
There are a lot of fun events associated with being a pastor. And while great food at church dinners and getting invited to cool events with people in your church are near the top of the list, there may be nothing that quite compares to sharing some great moments with people — like the birth of babies. But in the joy of it all, there is a problem.
When you arrive at the hospital, you encounter a weary, but thrilled, couple who hand you this tightly wrapped little bundle and then impose on you a serious ethical dilemma. Of course, you are supposed to say, “Oh, my goodness, what a pretty little girl,” or “What a handsome little boy!” The reality is that I’ve never seen a child fresh out that looks anything like handsome or pretty. (Come to think of it, I have seen three really beautiful babies.)
But once I get past the ethical dilemma by saying something like, “My, isn’t she precious,” the conversation ultimately morphs into an easier realm of interaction regarding the child’s name: “What’s the baby’s name?” . . . “That’s a great name. What does it mean?” The answers vary:
“Oh, it’s his grandfather’s name.”
“Her name means ‘Father’s delight’” or,
“We have no idea; we just chose it from a baby book!”
For most of us, names are relatively insignificant. They are easily changed into nicknames and serve basically to distinguish us from Bob or Ted. But if we look at God’s view of names in the same way, we may have trouble understanding what the big deal is about God’s name. Why would He include the importance of His name in His top-10 list of “Thou Shalt Nots”? How could diminishing His name rank up there with murder, stealing, and adultery?
It doesn’t take much digging through the Bible to realize that names are important to God. Think about Genesis, when God was often giving new names to the main characters—Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel. Each change signaled a statement from God about that individual’s character and his or her place in His plan. It wasn’t about God giving a nickname, it was about God assigning identity and worth to these individuals through the meaning of their name.
Most importantly, names are one of God’s key means of revealing His own identity and worth. He reveals His identity when He tells Moses that He is named “Yahweh,” which means, “I Am.” It means that He is eternally existent. He also identifies Himself as “Elohim,” the Almighty God, the God of great power. His names are who He is, not just what we call Him.
God’s names also describe His worth. You may be familiar with names like “Jehovah-Jireh,” meaning that He is the God who will provide. Or “El-Shaddai,” which means that He is completely sufficient. There are, in fact, 210 different names of God throughout Scripture, adding incredible richness and depth to our understanding of God’s identity, worth, and character.
Which is exactly why He takes it so seriously when we degrade His name by using it as though it weren’t sacred and lowering it to mere casual conversation as though it were ordinary. The exclamation, “Oh my God” should be an urgent prayer, not a verbal exclamation point. When we lower the name of God to drag it through a moment of anger or to use it to intimidate or manipulate, we have taken God Himself and lowered Him from His holy position. His name is intrinsically locked into who He is and what He is like. To put it simply, when we hit on His name, we have hit on Him. No wonder He is offended.
So, what’s in a name? If you’re talking about God, the answer is everything!