This weekend I celebrated my birthday. In other words I and those around me celebrated me!! I was the recipient of many a lovely gift and card, not to mention receiving little blessings across the day – a takeout coffee from my favourite café delivered to me by my kind husband, cake from my colleagues at work. You have to love birthdays!
The day I was born those few (?!) years ago heralded my arrival not only into the world but also my belonging to my family, to my parents and grandparents. The best birthday celebrations therefore remain for me those celebrated with family. But if I can liken myself to the Queen for just a moment (I promise!), I am not just restricted to one birthday a year, but two. While my birthday heralded my belonging to my earthly family – daughter to a father and mother, sister, granddaughter, I also belong to another family. That moment that as a child I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I was adopted into God’s family, I became a daughter of God. I don’t quite remember the actual date that it happened, although I do remember the camp, the room where it happened and randomly the china penguin pencil sharpener that I was given at the camp.
Unlike my birthday which gets celebrated once a year, my adoption into God’s family is an eternal, everlasting celebration! My adoption into God’s family I celebrate every time I come before God in worship and in prayer. Every time I enter into God’s presence I am aware of the magnitude of what it means for be a daughter of God. I am aware too of the magnitude of sacrifice that it took for my adoption.
Quite amazing really! And definitely something to celebrate!
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5)
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” ” (Galatians 4:6)
“Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.”
Helm’s Deep. Trapped. A dwindling, weakening army. Looking out across a formidable enemy. Staring at defeat, imminent death. And then the sun begins to rise. And the words of Gandalf echo in their minds “look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.” Hope begins to rise in the hearts of the men (and elves, hobbits and dwarves!) And sure enough as the sun rises much needed help arrives. The tide turns on this battle and the orcs are defeated.
Hope is a powerful force. It gives us strength to hang in there, to carry on, to hold on. As Christians, hope encourages our faith and helps us persevere. But this hope is not just wishful thinking, fledgling or weak. Nor is it a hope that can be shattered due to the frailty of man. This hope is secure, assured and strong. This hope we have is in Christ. Easter assures us that we can have a hope that will not waiver for Christ laid down His life for us and was victorious in conquering death and hell. Christ’s death and Resurrection means that life is now lived from victory. Through Christ our salvation is certain.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)
For my children (and for me!), Christmas morning heralded the receiving of presents. Gorgeously wrapped presents under the tree so quickly unwrapped and the contents displayed. The morning was filled with excited oohs and aaahs and definitely the odd shriek or two. It is in this sharing of gifts that we are encouraged to remember the greatest gift of all – Jesus.
On that first Christmas morning, all those many years ago, Christmas heralded a gift, that for a time most of the world was oblivious to – grace. That first Christmas was the dawn of grace – God’s grace. And while it would take a further 33 years to outwork with Jesus’ life on earth and His crucifixion, death and resurrection, it had begun with His birth.
Grace – the unmerited favour of God. Undeserved and unearned. Through Jesus we receive God’s greatest act of grace – salvation and from it eternal life. How amazing, how wonderful. And once again I find myself turning to the words of a song to communicate the wonder of this gift of grace.
That gives what I don’t deserve
Gives me what Christ has earned
And lets me go free
That gives me the time to change
Washes away the stain
That once covered me
And all that I have
I lay at the feet
Of the Wonderful Saviour who loves me
Wonderful Grace, made possible by the birth of a precious baby – Son of God.
Fairy Tales seem to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment. Well certainly for the adults that is. Fairy Tales for children have always been in vogue. But over the last couple of years, fairy tale after fairy tale have been retold in a movie. From Snow White and the Huntsman, to Maleficent and now Cinderella, the classic fairy tales all undergo a revamp to appeal to the “grownups”.
Essentially though, the story remains the same. To quote Miss Prism from “The Importance of being earnest”, “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily.” There can be no messing with the end of Fairy Tales. The Princess ends up with the Prince. The Kingdom restored to former glory and well the bad guys….it ends badly for them.
It seems that the beauty and magic of a Fairy Tale never grows old. Heroes, Heroines, great feats and acts of love and courage, a bad guy to conqueror are the key ingredients. Ingredients for a great story. But fiction, a tale nonetheless.
Yet here I am, living right in the middle of my Fairy Tale. Living in the reality of a true story. The ingredients are all there. Heroes, great feats and acts of love and courage. But I’m not wearing a tiara (I wish!) , I don’t have glass slippers or a ball to attend, but I’m a star in this story. I’m one that a King pursues and saves.
Yes, I am a part of the greatest love story ever, as are you! The true story of a God for His people. And across the ages, we see time and time again His intent and love for us. The rescues, the healings, the miracles. We see a God, a King, so kind, so good, so loving that He would construct the best rescue plan possible to rescue His Bride. He would send His Son from Heaven into Earth undercover as a baby, to ensure that we could get home to Heaven.
The twist in this story is that the plan includes the sacrifice of His Son – Jesus for us. That Jesus would die for us. And while this would turn most Fairy Tales into a tragedy more like a Shakespearean play, it does not end there. Jesus rises again, victorious and having conquered sin and death, and we are free. Free now to be partakers of His inheritance. Free to live a life of peace, of hope, of love through the grace of Jesus.
Free to live Happily Ever After.
Today, I received a phone call from a bank telling me that I was preapproved for a loan (and quite a substantial loan at that!). I didn’t have to apply or jump through hoops to secure it – it was all preapproved and the money was ready to be given to me. Fortunately for my husband’s sake I did decline the offer (but yes, my mind did spend a couple of minutes thinking of what a shopping spree I could have!). After I hung up the phone, the word “Preapproved” echoed in my mind.
Over the course of my life I have applied for credit cards and mortgages, applied just to open a bank account to put money in! All of these take forms (and forms and forms!) and checks and balances, proof of income and address, signatures and signatures not to mention time! Yet here I was being offered a loan without all that red tape.
Preapproved! I’ve decided it’s pretty awesome! Then I realised that my whole life has been preapproved! And preapproved by God! Jesus went to the Cross and took upon Himself my sin and shame and then died for me, so that in God’s eyes I would be preapproved! In God’s eyes there would be no black marks against my name to cause Him to turn away from me. I had all the credentials I needed for salvation before I was even born. Just as I am, I am accepted and loved by God.
And as with the loan I was offered today, it took just a simple yes from me to Jesus to make use of my preapproval and walk into the fullness and blessings of the life that He had prepared for me. But unlike the loan that would eventually have to be paid back, by grace I don’t owe God anything, (even though I owe Him everything!). There’s no fine print or hidden clauses when it comes to salvation, for it is by grace that we are saved.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” (Ephesians 1:4)
There’s a first time for everything they say. But there are some things, a lot of things, that you don’t ever expect or want to experience. Today, I had one those experiences. I was enjoying a late morning coffee with my sister, (if midday can be considered late morning!) after a morning of errands, or should I say shopping, when I was accosted by a shop employee with two security guards in tow. Apparently my behaviour in a shop an hour earlier had led them to believe that I had stolen a handbag. Yes I love handbags, and blush, yes I had bought one from the said shop, but no I had not stooped to stealing it! As it was, at $12 it was a steal anyway! I produced said receipt, and was left dumbfounded as to what else I could say to attest for my innocence. Finally and fortunately they left.
Forget that I just heard a great message on not getting offended! The obvious confrontation in the middle of the mall left me wanting justice, wanting to protest my innocence and right the wrong that had occurred. I was not carted off to jail but the public accusation left me unsettled and yes somewhat miffed. It certainly left me at no loss of words as to what had happened.
It’s definitely hard when we’re unfairly accused, when our character, our reputation is slighted, to remain quiet. But there is one who did remain quiet. Quiet as He was falsely accused, as His character was maligned. He remained quiet as He was mocked, quiet as He was insulted. Worse still, He was beaten by His accusers. And then, this innocent, blameless one was judged guilty, condemned and crucified.
No harm came to me today. It was a trivial matter. But it has prompted me to think how strong and brave My Lord was to stand and say nothing in His defense. Knowing the consequences, knowing what the outcome was to be. Knowing that the path was to continue to the Cross. He remained silent for me!
My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die?