Have you ever tried to decline an overgenerous gift? How much more extravagant is God’s great love for us?!? He wants you to accept it.
When we’re sick, we see a doctor. At one time, we’ve all been spiritually ill and in need of healing. Praise God for the gift of his Son!
I doubt many of you needed much coaxing to open Christmas presents last week. Why, then are we ever reluctant to accept God’s grace-gift?
Many years ago, I memorized Micah 6:8 as a song. The version I learned went like this: “He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I had that song in my head this morning, so I looked up the verse again to read it in context.
Micah is considered one of the “minor prophets” of the Old Testament, and the book is tucked between Jonah and Nahum. They may be called “minor,” but there are some major insights within those writings. For example, Micah foretold that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (see Ch. 5). Micah also called out the people of Judah for being dishonest and worshipping idols. In fact, the heading for the passage quoted above is “The Lord’s Case Against Israel” in the NIV translation. God had a bone to pick with his people.
In the first five verses of Micah 6, the Lord reminds the reader of his many righteous acts. He dares the Israelites to backtalk him with complaints about life’s burdens, after all that God has done for them. Then, in verse 6, Micah poses the question of what gifts would be worthy to bring to the Lord as an apology for our sins. He mentions a variety of offerings before he hits the nail on the head in verse 8: God doesn’t want our sacrifices as much as he wants our hearts.
I like the way The Message paraphrases verse 8 (the same verse from the song that I mentioned up above): “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”
The greatest gift that we can offer to the Lord during this season (or anytime) is ourselves. Romans 12:1 calls this “a living sacrifice” – our everyday lives, devoted to bringing him honor.
James 1:17 (every good & perfect gift comes from God) is sandwiched within a passage about temptation. Resist evil through thankfulness!
Something really terrific happened the other day: I found out that my boss recommended me for a raise! Unfortunately, the same day that I learned of the pay increase, my transmission fried. Literally, the fluid smelled smoky and was not the usual pinkish tint. I had noticed that it seemed to be straining a bit, but since I live in the mountains now, I thought it might just be the drastic weather changes, altitude, or whatever. Long story short, the transmission has to be rebuilt.
So, I ask you this: For what should I give thanks?
I’m certainly grateful for the pay raise; that will be a huge help with everyday expenses. I’m thankful that my boss went to bat for me, and I appreciate feeling like a valuable part of the team.
But what about the car? Sure, it’s going to cost a lot of money for the repair, but there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. First and foremost, I’m thankful that I finished paying it off just a couple of months ago, so I don’t have a car note anymore. I’m thankful that on the morning it died, I was able to make it into the parking lot at work. I remember sitting at a red light on the edge of campus praying that it would make it to the lot – and it did!
I’m thankful that although we haven’t gotten to know a whole lot of people here very well yet, one of the new friends from church who I called to see if they had a referral for a mechanic turned out to actually be a mechanic! Who knew?!? (God did!) He took time out of his work day to meet me on campus and make sure my car made it to a reputable transmission repair shop that he trusted.
I think this type of finding-reasons-to-be-thankful is part of what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 9. The chapter is primarily about giving and financial supporting ministry, but it goes deeper than just writing a check to the church. It’s about having a spirit of thanksgiving for all of our blessings. When we’re thankful for what we have, we are more inclined to give back. What good would it do to kick the tires and shake my fist at the heavens? Instead, when we find ways to be thankful in the midst of our circumstances, it brings honor to God, who is the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)
As you prepare your heart for church tomorrow, think about the matchless gift that Jesus offers us through his life, death, & resurrection.
Have you ever received an extravagant gift? How did you feel as you accepted what someone put so much thought into for you?
Have you ever given someone an extravagant gift? How did it feel as the gift-giver to do something so lavish for another person?
What’s something extravagant that you can do for the Lord? Maybe volunteer in an area outside of your comfort zone or make a year-end gift?