One Special Gift

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wrapped gift

Let’s look back two thousand years, when “…it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). Joseph and Mary, a young couple in the royal line of Israel’s King David, lived within Caesar’s domain in Nazareth, a small town few had ever even heard of. Once the decree was issued, they had to submit to Caesar and enroll in his census for taxation. They were required to return to their ancestral hometown, Bethlehem, to enroll. Mary was probably just 16 or 17 years old at that time.

Transportation conditions would be very harsh, especially since Mary was 9 months pregnant with Israel’s prophesied Deliverer. In spite of her advanced pregnancy, she was still required to make the long and difficult journey to Bethlehem. “…Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Luke 2:4-5).

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes…” (Luke 2:6-7 emphasis added). Jewish custom was for a woman to wear a long piece of fabric called a burial cloth when traveling far from home, so she could be wrapped in it for a decent burial in case she did not survive the trip. This would be a long, demanding, difficult journey of 70 to 80 miles with only a mule to help. It would be very hard on Mary.

God, for His own reasons and purposes, had to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. He used Caesar Augustus as His divine instrument when he enrolled the Roman world for taxation purposes. But Caesar was not the one in control of the situation like he thought he was. Seven hundred years before this young couple ever made their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, it had been predicted that …thou Bethlehem, though thou be little among the thousands in Judea, yet out of thee shall He come forth whose goings forth has been from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). It was declared way back then that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of Israel’s Deliverer.

sleeping baby

Mary gave birth soon after their arrival in Bethlehem. Then she wrapped her newborn son in her burial cloth as His swaddling cloth, being all she had with her. She did not know then that her newborn son being wrapped in a burial cloth at birth foreshadowed His death later on the Cross, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Abraham, that “…God will provide Himself [as] a lamb for a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:8 emphasis added). Jesus was born in an animal feeding trough as the Chosen Lamb of God, “which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was “…as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1:19-21 emphasis added).

That same night, in outlying fields in the vicinity of the manger, temple shepherds were tending their flocks. Suddenly, a heavenly host of angels appeared, announcing the arrival on Earth of God’s divine presence and glory in His newborn, only begotten Son. One of the angels said, “…Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you; you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-13 emphasis added).

Imagine how those shepherds felt while they were “…keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Mary had just brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in the swaddling cloth, and laid Him in the manger. He was born in a stable used by temple shepherds for newborn temple lambs. The lambs had to be examined for any spot or blemish, to determine if they qualified to be offered for Israel’s atoning temple sacrifices. Here God brought forth Mary’s firstborn son, “the Lamb of God,” gift-wrapped in a swaddling cloth and laid in a manger. Mary provided the wrapping for God’s special gift to us, the fulfillment of His promise to all mankind. God as “Immanuel” was now with us through His only begotten Son, sent from Heaven to visit mankind in order to redeem us from our sin.

God has always longed for fellowship with man, but it was cut off by man because of his sin against God. To have true fellowship with God again, something had to be done about man’s sin. This is the primary reason why God chose Bethlehem as the place for His only begotten Son to be born. This need for a sacrificial lamb had been deeply imbedded in the Jewish mind in their longstanding culture and worship. Here Mary brought forth Israel’s precious Lamb of God and used her burial cloth to wrap Him after she gave birth. This cloth was the token of the chosen sacrificial “…Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 emphasis added). And how did a lamb remove sin? By his sacrificial death, as our substitute. And how was Jesus to take away the sin of the world? By His sacrificial death, as our substitute.

three magi holding gifts

But where were the Magi, the wise men from the East? They had followed the star of wonder that they saw the first, special night Jesus was born. It led them west toward God’s perfect, eternal, divine Light in Bethlehem. They arrived as latecomers to the occasion of God coming in the flesh there, about 1 to 2 years after Jesus was born. Joseph and Mary had moved from the manger into a house in Bethlehem by then. The Magi therefore did not come to the manger to see Jesus. They went into the house and saw the young boy with His mother, then fell down and worshipped Him. They unwrapped their treasures and presented their gifts unto Him. The first gift was gold, fit for a king, one of the reasons for the Lord Jesus’ human existence. The second gift was frankincense, a fragrant gum resin used in religious rites and embalming, because He came as Israel’s Messiah (Anointed One). And the third gift was myrrh, a bitter aromatic gum resin commonly used for burial (see Matthew 2:11). How interesting that they would present gifts like these to a young child. These three gifts from the Magi were given to honor Jesus, who would one day become Israel’s glorious King, Great High Priest, and Savior.

These three valuable gifts came at just the right time to provide a source of funds for the upcoming long and expensive journey into Egypt when Joseph and Mary had to flee with the boy. They would be total strangers there. No one would meet or help them. And they would end up staying for a considerable length of time. Little did they know then how much they would need these gifts for support during that period. The Magi laid the gifts at the feet of the boy Jesus. And at this very same moment, God (seen as the boy Jesus) was still longing with all His heart for fellowship with man. And He is still hoping to be received into the hearts of all mankind today. That is the gift that He desires most from man.

The world’s largest package shipping company processes almost five billion packages a year, many of which are gifts. They make it possible to give gifts to the whole world. But God gave just one divine birthday gift package to the whole world two thousand years ago in little Bethlehem. He “…so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but He that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18 emphasis added). He is the one and only gift anyone really needs in order to be with God forever.

cross in mountains

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Believe right now that He bore God’s judgment for your sins by His death on the cross, and you will receive the free gift of God into your life. You will be born again by the Spirit of God by putting your faith in Him, and you will become a brand new creation in Jesus Christ. God provided Him for anyone who wants to come to Him. The key is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, God’s one special gift to all mankind.

For more information on knowing God and His Son Jesus click here.

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What God Wants for Christmas

christmas gifts

Near the end of every year, millions around the world take time from their busy schedules to shop for the highest day of gift giving—Christmas day. For the sake of just one single day of celebration, people push themselves until they go beyond their maximum threshold for stress. The results of these frantic efforts to try to make someone else happy or satisfied too often are arguments, disappointment, jealousy, heartaches, and sometimes even severe injuries. How ironic, that all of this is done in celebration of the birth of the One who came to make the way for eternal joy and peace in our lives!

In the midst of all of our efforts to give each other gifts at this time, how often do we simply forget about, or even totally overlook the One who gave us the ultimate gift—Jesus Christ? We have become so engrossed in our giving to each other, that we relegate the remembrance of what God and His Son did for us to just a service or two at a church somewhere, if we do even that. Then, after all the songs and celebrations are over, we scurry back to the stores in the days that follow Christmas to exchange or return gifts we have received, or to buy even more things. We have not even mentioned the multitudes who do almost all their gift-giving on a computer, while never even setting foot inside of a physical store for the whole holiday season!

shopping mall interior at christmas

Now consider the other aspect of Christmas gift-giving: how much do we give God in return for the gift He has given us, and for what He has done for us? God the Father gave the only begotten Son He ever had to suffer and die for us on the cross, so that we could escape the just penalty of death for our sin against God, and the awful thought of spending eternity without Him. What God actually expects from us in return is our praise. “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). He eagerly desires to receive our thanksgiving, appreciation, and love.

“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works” (Psalms 9:1).

Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalms 18:49).

“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1).

“In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever” (Psalms 44:8).

“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee” (Psalms 67:5).

“O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Psalms 25:1).

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

person in praise to the sky

There are many places throughout the Bible where praises are made unto God, because He deserves all of our praise. As we deepen and mature in our relationship with Him, our desire to praise and thank Him should increase as well. But when our relationship with Him weakens, then our praise and interests turn away from Him also.

At this Christmas season, and on into the next year, let’s pause from our hectic endeavors to try to please others, and consider instead the One who died to give us a new life and an eternal future in Him. Jesus is the reason for celebrating. Let our giving be to Him first, and then we can give to others to share our joy with them. He is the One who is worthy and who deserves our praise and thanksgiving.

male clasping hands in prayer

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:1-3).

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Seeing the Whole City

city skyline in daytime

Suppose you live in a very large city, and friends you haven’t seen for many years come to visit for a short time. After you all chat a while, they say that they want to “see your city.” Naturally, you are eager to oblige. You get everyone in your vehicle and proceed to show them the city. You drive to the waterfront first, telling highlights of various buildings of importance along the way. Then you head up a large hill to the north side where they can see the city’s skyline. You mention additional points of interest visible from there. Next you go into the heart of downtown. You let them wander around a bit to look at various shops, landmarks, and parks the city has to offer. Then you shuttle them to the tourist section on the east side. Everyone, including you, is exhausted after this tour. You finish off the day by stopping for dinner at a well-known restaurant on the way home.

city skyline night panorama

During the meal, you ask if your guests enjoyed seeing the city. They agree that what they have seen is very nice and interesting, but then they say they would still like to “see the city.” Even though this reply puzzles you, you take them out again the following day to “see the city.” You escort your friends to the subway station early the next morning to take them all around the city. You take the blue line, the green line, the yellow line, wherever the subway lines go—that’s where you all end up going. After nearly getting lost three times, you all finally arrive back home in late afternoon. During the meal that evening, you casually inquire again if they feel that they have now “seen the city.” To your surprise, they conclude that everything that you have shown them has been wonderful and they are very grateful for your efforts. But, they still would like to “see the whole city.” After a long sigh, you reluctantly agree to do your best once more to show them “the whole city” before they return home.

Now you are really stumped for a solution to fulfill their request. You have done all you could to “show them the city”; what else could you possibly do to satisfy their request? The next day you contact friends in the city for advice, but they are as clueless as you are for a solution. Late that night, as you are just about to fall asleep, the perfect answer finally strikes you. The next morning, after everyone has eaten breakfast, you announce that you know a way that just might fulfill their desire to “see the whole city.” After a few phone calls, everyone gets into your vehicle again and you head to a small airport just outside city limits. There you meet up with an old friend who does aerial photography. He gladly agrees to take you and your friends up to “see the whole city.” After pointing out all the various places of interest in the city from the air, he brings everyone back down to the airport. Only a few moments after exiting the plane, your friends gleefully express their satisfaction. They all eagerly agree that they have really “seen all of the city” this time. They can now return home to tell everyone all about your city.

aerial view of sprawling city

How often have you felt that God is sometimes unfair and cruel is His actions toward you or others? When a tragedy, natural or manmade, strikes the lives of innocent individuals, do you question or blame God? Do you become confused or angry when the wicked prosper and those who do good fall into poverty or despair? How often do you face a problem that seems unsolvable or face a situation where you feel defeated before you even do anything?

Your confusion, anger, and despair all stem from the fact that you are coming to all of your conclusions based on a single area that you see of “the whole city” (or situation). As a result, you wonder why God allowed these things to happen, as if He can only see this one area too. But, thankfully, God always sees the big picture or “the whole city.” While you only see one part at a time, God sees “the whole city” all of the time. When a circumstance occurs in your life or someone else’s, it is only a part of “the whole city.” If you were to go up in the air and look down over the city like your friends did, then you would see just how your problem or area of the city connects with all of the rest of it. You would also be able to see just how small your problem really is from God’s point of view.

city block at street level

You may be wondering by now why you cannot see “the whole city” like God sees it. It is because you, in your finite physical body, could not handle such a view. You would be overwhelmed beyond despair. Our loving Heavenly Father knows these limitations and spares you from things beyond your current comprehension or physical ability. He has no intention of harming you by placing you in an area beyond your capability.

Instead, you are to trust in Him. When you feel overwhelmed by the situation that surrounds you, just put your concern and despair into His hands. Let Him take care of it.

When you don’t understand why things turned out the way that they did, just remember that He sees “the whole city,” the big picture, and the connection these things have to everything else that you cannot see.

When He chooses to move you to another area “of the city” or expand your existing area, don’t resist or rebel. Let Him do the work He desires for your life. Many trials and circumstances occur in your life because you thought you knew better and refused to allow Him to work in your life.

On the other hand, don’t feel limited to just seeing the small area you are in now. As you spend more and more time in His Word, and begin to grow in Him, don’t be afraid to ask Him to open your eyes to see more “of the city.” “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed [circled] the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17). Elisha’s servant could only see the small picture of the enemy that had them surrounded. This view looked hopeless. He could see no way of escape. But there was something in the bigger picture that the servant could not see. When God opened the servant’s eyes at Elisha’s request, he could then see a bigger portion of the picture. It contained a mountain “full of horses and chariots of fire,” a picture of something far greater than the limited one of a seemingly impossible situation.

panoramic view of city at twilight

Remember, God is not limited to only the view “of the city” that you see; He looks at “the whole city.” He knows what is going on everywhere at any given moment and how everything going on is connected to everything else. His hands are not tied. He is not helpless regarding what is happening in your area at any given moment. He sees the big picture and He has a plan. He wants you to trust in His plan, regardless of how you see things now or later. Then you can say, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion” (Psalm 71:1).

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

An Inexhaustible Supply

bank teller with child

A very wealthy nobleman died and left his faithful servant an exceedingly large amount of money in a bank account that was easily accessible. The servant decided one day to go the bank and ask if it would be possible for him to withdraw a tiny amount for an item he wanted to buy. The teller explained to him in many different ways that he could have the small amount, but he now also had access to much, much more. But it did no good. He had never had much, and he just couldn’t comprehend the concept of asking for more than he had ever had before. He only wanted his tiny request fulfilled so he could purchase one item and then return to his little home. Years went by with him continuing to make similar small requests. From a purely ascetic aspect, this servant did do one admirable thing—he did not give in to fleshly indulgences and squander the money frivolously. He also spared himself the burden of managing his wealth, and he never had any fear of it being stolen from his house or wallet. But he also never made good use of the abundance the nobleman had supplied for him. After many years, the servant died in poverty, never having realized that he had forfeited a fortune.

How often we, like this servant, don’t want to burden God with our needs beyond those which we consider trivial. God is limitless—but in our finite wisdom, we often exhibit a false humility, thereby limiting what He can do for us. How many times do we treat God this way as His children?

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).

Why put God in a box when it comes to making our needs and desires known to Him? He is our Heavenly Father! He certainly does not want His children in lack. He says in the book of Psalms, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalms 50:10-12). If He owns it all, why would He object to His own children drawing on His abundance and having all their needs met?

Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

All God expects is for us to come to Him asking and believing. Too many simply ask and that is the end of it; there is no anticipation of receiving. In fact, some even forget they asked at all. When God says to ask, He wants us to keep on asking—not as vain repetition, but to prove the depth of our desire to Him. Then there are others who ask with reservation. They simply can’t believe that God will meet all of their need, so they ask hesitantly, only hoping and expecting to receive a small portion of it. This is not faith, but doubt! When we don’t fully expect God to fulfill our requests, we are limiting Him. In essence, we are saying that His supply is not sufficient to meet every need that we may have. The Apostle Paul said, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 emphasis mine). That ‘all’ Paul mentions here encompasses both physical and spiritual need.

Yet, while God’s supply is inexhaustible, it is not unconditional. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). Our Heavenly Father graciously supplies our need according to His will.

A loving father is not going to give his young child a flame-thrower or a rhinoceros just because he asks for it. He knows what is best for His children, and won’t give them something that they are not yet mature enough to handle.

The same idea applies with our Heavenly Father. When we ask for something we are incapable of managing, or when our heart’s desires are actually selfish, He will not supply it until we are at a proper level of spiritual maturity. What God really wants is for us to be in such a close relationship with Him that we do not have to wonder whether or not our requests align with His will. Then we will know how to ask according to His will, and that our requests will therefore be granted.

Where do we stand when it comes to asking of our Heavenly Father? Are we asking Him to be generous and believing that we will receive, in His timing? Or are we like this servant, limiting God by asking for just the bare minimum, never believing that He can give us more than enough to meet our needs and is willing to do so? Do we embarrass God by always walking around in rags, as if He is incapable of meeting all of our needs? God is greater than all the universes combined; ask Him for the maximum, not just enough to get by! Seek Him not for what we think we can handle, but for what He knows we are ready to handle. God wants to move us out of the little sphere that we have carved out for ourselves and into the big realm that He has made for us. Ask Him for what you need and partake of His inexhaustible supply freely and without reservation!