The Gift Was Not Given to Stay Wrapped

There is so much excitement and giddiness that is tasted and seen when preparing a gift for someone. When I am preparing a gift for someone, one of the first things that I do is think of the person that I am wanting to bless with a gift. Purposefully and individually, I have them in my mind and on my heart. Their face is so beautifully crafted on the canvass of my thoughts and in my ears I hear their name specifically spoken as I delight in the joy of knowing them. Once I have the person chosen, I then go about choosing the very best gift that I can provide them. It is absolutely crazy how refreshing it is when we seek out how we can refresh others. WOW! When I am wrapping a gift, it is like a confetti canon of joy exploded because I begin to think about how sweet it will be when that person opens their gift. It makes my heart smile just to think about them receiving it, knowing that they were thought of by name, chosen, and cared for.

How sad would it be to take the gift that was prepared and wrapped with genuine eagerness to the person, and they rejected it? To take a gift to someone and to have them respond with exuses as to why they simply cannot take it would burden my heart. It would be very sad and kind of confusing to get the response that they did not do enough to deserve the gift that I simply wanted to give to them. There was never a way that they could have earned this gift that I was so glad to give, I wanted them to simply accept it. I would want them to accept the fact that they were thought of by name, chosen, and cared for. It would burden my heart because I would know the fun that would be withheld from them simply because they chose not to receive what was prepared for them.

As Christmas is coming around the corner and as I begin to think about the joy of giving, I am seeing that a big reason it feels so good to give is because of how sweet it is to see someone else receive. Love is sacrificial, it is not self-seeking, and therefore it rejoices in lifting others up with honor by giving to them with a glad heart.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV)

In Ephesians 2:8-9, we are told that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” God, the King of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the Lord of lords, the Host of hosts, the Great I Am, the Prince of Peace, the Creator, the One Who calls each star by name, the Artist of the skies, the Maker of you, whom He declares is His masterpiece…God thought about you by name before the world had any time to call you names. He individually and purposefully chose you and had you in His mind and on His heart as He made you in His image. He knows you fully. He has searched and knows when you sit and when you rise. He perceives your thoughts from afar and discerns your going out and your lying down. Before a word is on your tongue, He knows it completely. Nothing about you, even the things that you hide in desperation and embarrassment, is hidden from Him. He fully knows you, and beloved one, He fully loves you.  (Psalm 139)

He fully loves us so much and is so rich in mercy, that even while we were dead in our transgressions and sins, He wanted to give us the best gift. What scandalous grace. For God so loved us, that He sent His one and only Son so that if we believe in Him, we will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). He demonstrated His perfect love for us, in that while we were still sinners, He sent His most cherished gift to take our place of death due to our sin (Romans 5:8). Our sin separates us from God and because God designed us to be in relationship with Him and desires to be in relationship with us, He made a way for us to walk in relationship with Him as He intended from the very beginning. This redeemed relationship is found through His gift, His Son, Jesus. Grace is defined to be the free and unmerited favor of God and it is a gift that no one can do enough things or work to a certain degree in order to attain. It is simply a gift that God excites in us receiving. He excites in being with us and thinking about us and knowing us fully, so I can only imagine how saddened the heart of God must be, when we reject His best gift because we feel like we did not do enough to earn it. I can see a glimpse of how burdened the heart of God must be to choose us and send His one and only Son and be jealous for us, and then we turn our backs in belief that He doesn’t want us.

The enemy speaks in condemnation and confusion and chaos and deceit. But the One Who has called you by name, speaks to you in love and life and peace and truth.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

The enemy wants to steal your joy, kill your faith, and destroy your vision of God’s love for you. Jesus, though, came to make beauty out of your ashes and pick you up, heal you, and bring you back to life. And this does not take place after you check off a certain number of boxes on a religious to do list. This takes place by you simply receiving the gift He has already given you and living a life operating out of wholehearted gratitude for such a gift.

Why would God give the best gift simply for us to look at it and talk about it on Sundays? He wouldn’t. In response to such boundless and reckless grace, we open it and rejoice and praise Him and walk with Him and receive it-not because we did anything to earn it-but simply because we are undeservingly loved by the God Who is jealous and eager for us to walk in His unmerited and free favor and life. The good works that God prepared in advance for us to do cannot be fully lived out until the gift of grace is received. We are pursued unconditionally by God Almighty and He has an original adventure of life and freedom waiting for each of us on the other side of His grace simply being received.

The gift of grace was not given to stay wrapped, if it was, what was the purpose of sending it?

a pleasing aroma

Leaving home for college has been such a sweet adventure of trusting God and continuing to walk in His faithfulness. It is absolutely beautiful how even when our seasons change, He remains constant, and in Him we can remain steadfast. He will never lead you into a place that He has not already gone before you and been. Great is His faithfulness. He never wastes a season. Great is His faithfulness. This has been a hymn within my heart that cannot be contained because He is just so crazy good!

Something so incredibly special is the joy of getting to go back home. Coming home from college for Thanksgiving and walking into my house that is jam packed with such splendid memories and laughs and tears and shouts of praise was a true gift. One of my favorite parts about the moment of walking through doors is the smell. Do you know what I am talking about? How each home you have entered or each family you have gotten to spend time with, do you recognize and agree that each one has such a unique and particular smell? Some smells may make you smile and others may make your nose crinkle up. Some bring you to a place to say “ahhhhhh” in complete comfort and relief. Some bring memories that you love reflecting on, and others may bring you to a place of remembrance that still stings and hurts. The aroma of a home holds a magnitude.

As I danced in the sweet aroma of my home and as I hugged my family and their lovely smells filled the air,  I began to think about the aroma of my heart. For indeed, our hearts are homes and we get to decide what the foundation will be and what we want to occupy the rooms. When Christ is the solid foundation upon which our heart is built and His presence is what occupies every room, then the aroma of Himself will overflow into all that we do.

An aroma that is pleasing to the Lord is the sweet fragrance of Christ. For anyone who is in Christ, the old has past away, and behold, the new is here! Because of the blood of Jesus, believers no longer have to walk in the stench of sin and shame. In no way, shape, or form am I near perfect, but by grace, I am made pure and whole in the presence of God. This aroma overflows from the inside out of my home that is now found securely in His presence. And when others come near my home or smell the aroma of my life, they will smell Christ. The response to this aroma is not consistent.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, He brings the knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation-an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No-but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-17 MSG)

Some people will respond to the aroma of my home with an “ahhhhh” of complete comfort and relief, while others will respond with a crinkled nose of disgust. A response of disgust comes from a home that is unfamiliar with His presence. They do not yet know Him. They will hate the smell that I am overflowing with.

“If you were to give your allegiance to the world, they would love you and welcome you as one of their own. But because you won’t align yourself with the values of this world, they will hate you. I have chosen you and taken you out of the world to be mine.”       (John 15:19 TPT)

You are His. He has chosen you and called you to be in the world but not of it, and this is why it is so important to not let the reactions of others determine how you act. For the response of the world is not about you, it is simply a reflection of what is taking place within their own home, the home that is their heart.

So beloved one, keep giving off the sweet aroma of Christ. Continue to dance in whatever is true and lovely and noble and right and pure and excellent and admirable and praiseworthy. Continue to walk in love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and faithfulness and self-control. Continue to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and bless those who curse you, for indeed they crinkle their nose at you and treat you like a stench from a rotting corpse because they do not yet personally know the One Who occupies your home. Continue to share God’s Word with all fearlessness and awe. The presence of Jesus within you is a pleasing aroma to the Lord and you are here to please Him, not the world. How freeing it is to live knowing that the Lord is fully satisfied with you, and in that you were made to be fully satisfied in the Lord.

There are homes all around you that are in dire need of a sweet perfume to come and cleanse the stenches of every room that is being occupied with the smells of bitterness and brokenness and insecurity and shame. Their homes are full of darkness, yet they feel so empty. And as a beloved of Jesus, we have the responsibility of being His ambassadors! He calls us to “let [our] light so shine before men so that they may see [our] good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV). “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV) and radiating the perfume of the Great I Am is what tiggers do best! yoohoohoohoo!! The wonderful thing about being His is that being His is a wonderful thing. And His love does not end with me, but rather it continues with me and I simply cannot keep this aroma to myself. And who knows, there may be some people around you who have left home and forgotten the smell of freedom and the Lord wants to use you to remind them of the victory that He has given them. Do not water down your scent! The words you speak, the way you walk, the thoughts you dwell upon, the life you live is all going to reflect whose presence is occupying your home.

“Guard your heart above all else, for everything you do flows from it.”                     (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

When the presence of the Lord is the keeper of your home, the aroma of all that He is will overflow into everything you do. The Lord longs to occupy your home. He longs to be the foundation of your home. In fact, He fearfully and wonderfully made you by Him and for Him and it is only when you invite Him to be your foundation that your home will be sweet smelling and made whole. I pray that today you can dance in the sweet fragrance of freedom, because this is the pleasing aroma that was purposefully given for you.