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042 There is Only One Gift

He who did not spare His own son, 
But delivered Him over for us all,
How will He not also along with Him
Freely give us all things?

Paul of Tarsus, Romans 8:32 (NASB)


Back in May of this year, I wrote an essay describing an incident during the 1990s when my wife fell into a deep depression and God showed up for several months to turn a searchlight on my moral life (RfMemo #033, "When God Shows Up, You Get All of Him.") This week I would like to explain to you something that I saw during that episode.

The New Testament Greek word for "grace" is "charis." Related to it, the Greek word for "gift" is "charisma." They have the same root because they're similar. The various gifts spoken of by the Apostles are all expressions of the same grace from the same God. He just keeps giving us Himself in different forms.

We Christians spend a lot of time hearing about, reading about, and talking about the enormous gift that God gave us when He sent Jesus to redeem us from our sins. That's appropriate; it really is an enormous gift, greater than we know.

Some of us are aware of other gifts that God has given us to make our lives good. I wrote about some of those in June of this year (RfMemo #035, "Forget None of His Benefits.") I mentioned growth, maturity, empowerment, healing, and provision, and argued that enjoying them is the point of our redemption.

Others of us have grown up in denominations that like to focus on what they call "gifts of the Spirit," the various ways that God manifests His power in the Church: prophecies, words of knowledge, healings, miracles, and so forth.

I have no argument with any of these. They're all valid. They all come from the same place.

When I was in God's crucible back in the 1990s, I began to add to those gifts, though, simple things like the air in my lungs, the sun on my back, and the grass under my feet. I know I might sound like a Hallmark card, but it's true and profound: life is a gift. The world is a gift. Breath is a gift. Hands and feet are gifts. And they all come from the same place that the other gifts come from: miracles, maturity, redemption, and all the rest. 

They're from God's heart, given to us simply because He loves us.

There's a remarkable truth about our universe. On the surface, it looks like a tough place: most of it is empty and hostile to life, and here on our planet--this one, tiny, livable break in the vast, hostile emptiness--we experience pain, loneliness, loss, injury, betrayal, sickness, and ultimately death. We get injured, become cynical, and build shells around our hearts to protect ourselves.

But here's the mystery: it turns out that the whole universe is about love. Every detail of it was created for us by a God whose love for us fills every corner. We live our entire lives on a bedrock of infinite thickness of the love of God for us, who created both our lungs and the air that fills them, our legs and the ground they stand on, our eyes and the light and color that fill them.

(The injury, disease, and loneliness don't come from God. They're the work of the demons, who were empowered by our own bad stewardship of the planet. Their favorite game is to injure us and then lie and say "See how angry and cruel God is?" But we'll talk about them another day.)

Ultimately, there is only one gift. That gift is God, Himself. He's given Himself to us. Jesus' sacrifice unwrapped the gift and laid it in our laps. We live, move, and have our being in His presents (and in His presence. Pun intended.) (See Acts 17:28.)

When talking about the apparent hiddenness of God, I like to bring up "the fish problem." Asking "Where is God?" is like a fish asking "Where is the ocean?" The problem is not that the fish has never seen the ocean; the problem is that the fish has never seen anything besides the ocean.

Like that fish, we've spent our entire lives living in God's own presence and among the stunning and beautiful gifts that God has given us to show us His heart of love for us, oblivious because we've never know anything else. We've put up barriers to lock out danger, and ironically locked out the awareness of God at the same time. We have to let down our inner defenses to let Him in, because we're swimming in an ocean of God's good gifts and saying to each other "Where is God? Why doesn't He ever do anything good for me?"

Someday this puny 3-dimensional shell will fall off our world, and we'll see things as they really are. We will discover that we've been in heaven all along, sitting in the Father's lap. We'll weep because of all the opportunities for loving fellowship we missed, when we thought we were alone but were in fact less than a breath away from Him who is our life.

We'll each die someday. I suppose that when that happens we'll become aware of God's presence in a manner that we're not aware now. But that's not the end, it's the beginning. God is infinitely wise, infinitely deep, infinitely loving. Even when we arrive in heaven--whatever that means--we'll still have an infinite distance to go deeper into Him. We'll never completely arrive; we'll be going "further up and further in", as CS Lewis put it, forever.

The real challenge for us is not to get there. The real challenge is to learn to enjoy Him right now, because "right now" is always the point at which we are nearest to God. 

Yes, I know I'm sounding all mystical and New Agey, but please trust me. The universe is not what we think it is. We already live in a vast ocean of His love. We've been brought near, reconciled to Him in Christ. Why wait 'till we die to experience Him? He's available to us right now. All of Him. For free. All that's standing between us and Him is our own self-protective fear.

Let's all pray to enjoy His goodness more. It's not selfish to ask. It's what He sent Jesus to achieve. He's dying to get closer to you. Literally.

 

Phil Weingart

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