Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why I Love Jesus

There is a popular hymn that is taught in Sunday school classes all over America.  As I type the words, and as you read them, we can hear young children singing, “Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me!”  Yes, Jesus loves me, and I love Jesus.  
Bible verses such as “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), “God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and the assurance of pardon in 1John 1:9, the promise of forgiveness and restoration to a right standing with God when we confess our sins (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness”)  do not begin to scratch the surface of why Jesus is worthy of my love.  Nor do they adequately explain why I love Him.  To be honest, I don’t think anything can, but I will try. 
It is one thing to love Jesus because of what I learned as a child.  When I was growing up, I believed in Jesus and knew who He is.  I knew He was the Son of God, that He died on a cross for my sins, was buried, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.  I knew I was supposed to love Jesus, but I loved Him as though he were a family member whom I had never met.  I knew about Him, but nothing more.  It was not until I was in my mid-20’s that my knowledge of Jesus started to become a relationship with the Son of the Living God.   Love takes on a whole new depth and dimension when it is experienced in a deeply personal way. 
There have been many times throughout the years when I have encountered Jesus in ways that have deeply touched me.  The “Jesus Encounter” that most profoundly ignited my love for the Lord is rooted in a time when I saw myself as insignificant to others and to the world around me.  You may say I was having a “pity-party”; I would say it was more like a “pity-palooza.”  In the midst of my feeling lonely and isolated, Jesus used a story being told on a radio broadcast at that very moment to change my heart.  The story was similar to the widow who dropped the two copper coins in the offering box (Luke 21:1-4).  I realized that no matter how low I see myself, I still have value.  I have a purpose.  I have a valuable contribution to make.  
Jesus first loved me.  God sent Jesus so by believing in Him, I would have eternal life.  Jesus died on a cross as payment for my sins, even though I did not deserve such mercy.  When I confess my sins I am forgiven, and I have right standing with God because of Jesus.  Through Jesus I have value, and have a contribution to make that will glorify God.  These are reasons why I love Jesus!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

There's an app for that ...

Cell phones.  Life was fine without them, right?  True, but after having one for a while you realize how useful they are if you happen to damage or misplace yours.  Like I did.  Mine was not one of the newfangled iPhones or a Droid or anything that “smart.”  In comparison, you might call it a “dumb-phone”.  But it did have some handydandy features that I did use quite a bit.  I could call people and receive calls, of course.  My phone had an alarm clock, which kept me from napping too long on my lunch break at work.  There was a calculator that I could use to quickly split a check at a restaurant six ways, including the tip.  I could even download music or podcasts to my phone and use it as an mp3 player.  And those features are just a few that came pre-loaded on the phone!

 Over time I did add some software applications, called “apps”, to make my cell phone more useful to me.  Things like some custom ringtones, so I could wake from my lunchtime naps to the sound of “WOW – WaHaHaHow – WOW – All I can say is WOW!”  (if that doesn’t get your attention, not much else would.)  The King James Bible was always with me, even if the print was tiny and it was difficult to navigate through the books.  And speaking of navigation, I am so thankful for the app that gives turn-by-turn directions to get me through the roundabouts of Ladera Ranch, otherwise I’d still be trying to find my way home from the party Julie hosted in 2011!   

Even if you and I had the same model of cell phone, the apps on your phone would probably be different from what I have on mine.  You may work in the medical field, and have a medical dictionary app on yours.  I’m not much into taking pictures, but you might use Instagram to share pictures of your grandbabies.  And for when boredom strikes, you might play Words With Friends, but not with me because I’ll be reading something on the Nook app.

In a way, you and I are like cell phones.  God made us all in His image and likeness, but made each of us unique, in that we all have different inherent strengths, or different apps, so to speak.  Those apps are often referred to as “spiritual gifts.”  These spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit, that Spirit of God that comes alive in us when we believe in Jesus.  The same Spirit that gives you your spiritual gifts is the same Spirit that gives me mine.  He gives them to each person, just as he decides.  Some people have the gift of healing, such as nurses, doctors, health care professionals.  Someone else might have the gift of wisdom.  Many people have the gift of faith – they know God continuously works wonders in the lives of people.  There are those who have an innate passion for teaching, or for working behind the scenes to help make programs work.  Those who make visitors welcome in their homes are known for their gift of hospitality.  When you have a spiritual gift, it’s as though you have a pre-loaded app for what you love to do, and you do it well.

Our spiritual gifts are to be used, not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those around us.  Back to the cell phone illustration.  Whether we have smart-phones or dumb-phones, the features and apps are useful if they are, well, used.  I did not realize until very recently that I could check my email and reply from the palm of my hand. Well, that’s not exactly true.  Now that I think of it, I did sort of know about doing email from my phone, knew it could benefit me, but never bothered to put it to use.  In the 2 ½ years I’ve had my phone, it just now occurred to me how many times I could have sent an email mid-day to bless somebody who could have used an encouraging word. 

The topic of spiritual gifts is one wher I could go on and on.  Just as there are some half a million apps you can download to your smart-phone, there are probably as many gifts the Holy Spirit can load in to those who believe in Jesus.  Many gifts may be similar, but each one has its own distinct nuances, just as individual as the one who receives the gift.  If you wish to explore this subject further and learn more about what your unique spiritual gifts are and how you might use them to benefit others, I would be willing and honored to help guide you in this endeavor.


Mary from the Prairie