December 4, 2011

The Christmas Present

“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Genesis 15:1

It is the Christmas season now and many things are being wished for. People are dreaming of white Christmases, singing of peace on Earth, and bringing wish lists of infinite length to the attention of a jolly, bearded man dressed in red. Christmas is alive with dreaming.

The heart wants things it should want, things it shouldn’t want, things it will attain and things it will never gain, but it doesn’t know the end result when it fixes itself on a desired object. The heart must expose itself to great risk in hope of great return. It is incredibly vulnerable.

There is an embedded fear within every dreamer’s private dreams. The Lord instructed Abram to “fear not” because he too experienced deep longing. We realize that some things just won’t materialize according to our design. In the midst of all the dreaming, the asking, the hoping and anticipating, we yearn for security. God proclaims that He is our shield. He guarantees us a return on hope.

God is generous to bless through tangible, visible gifts. Were I to list all the ways God has blessed me, my memory would betray me. I realize that I can never account for all of His goodness toward me and yet, in the quiet moments when the past seems distant and the future is a fog, I find myself held captive in the present where my restless attention span and fickle emotions reside. The moment at hand is not my friend.

The moment at hand is not your friend either. Remember Esau, who for the fleeting discomfort of a growling stomach sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34).

Sanctus Real’s song “Dear Heart” portrays the disloyalty of the human heart. It says,

“Dear Heart, do you belong to me, or do I belong to you?
Just look at all the trouble you drag me into.
I've heard it said to follow your heart,
But I'm starting to wonder if it's gone too far.
Dear Heart, you're in the wrong place,
Looking out for yourself no matter what I say.
And I know that you're holding me back,
And it's time for a change, so I'm giving you away.
Heart, you've let me down,
Chasing love where it can't be found.
And Heart, we've fallen out, Cause all of your emotions
Have led me to doubt. Only Jesus can save us now.”

The human heart doesn’t naturally operate to our advantage. In retaliation, God gives Himself as our reward (Genesis 15:1). When needs go unmet, this may sound like a far-fetched grasp for relief but if you will consider the impact of such a reality, then you will see that a personal relationship with the living God can compensate for unfulfilled dreams and delayed answers to prayer. GOD IS OUR EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD.

To be “thy” exceeding great reward means that He is MINE to claim. He has portioned Himself out just for me, He knows my name, He blots out my sins, He is attentive to my needs and no one stands between us.

To be thy “exceeding” great reward means that however great a reward can be, He EXCEEDS even that. He exceeds great!

To be thy exceeding “great” reward means that my portion of God’s goodness is IMMENSE. Any comprehension of Him, as reserved for my benefit, is an underestimation.

To be thy exceeding great “reward” means that God is a valuable asset to me, a reward greater than any prayer request, profit, or pleasure. He is the substance who brings depth to my life, alleviates my burdens and brightens my path. He is a benefit in the here and now and in eternal life to come.

Psalm chapter 34 testifies of the intimate relationship the Lord has with His children; an intimacy experienced through spiritual communion. The psalm praises God’s listening ear, His watchful eye, His attentiveness to prayers, His closeness to the broken-hearted, and His promise of deliverance. It is one magnificent revelation after another about the God who responds personally to us.

No matter how long or painful or desperate a prayer plea is, the ONE CONSTANT among all events is the cumulative revelation of God’s character. Knowledge of The Holy is a progressive relationship. You never lose ground getting to know God. Understanding only grows.

Do you send out prayers like a boomerang motivated by a distinct, desired return? Are your prayers so focused on your wants and needs that you neglect the WHO you are praying to? When desired return is the substance of prayer, then the prayer sender becomes the center.

What if we reverse that order? What if our primary prayer intent becomes engaging God, the person on the other end of the line? We would discover that the reward we seek lies in experiencing His greatness, His holiness, His mercy, and His sovereignty. He is our exceeding great reward. No alternatives compare.

When we determine that experiencing God is the greatest reward we can pursue, then risk disintegrates. Without fail, He always makes Himself known. Imagine God’s message to you is this, “I heard your prayers. I received your wish list. Follow the star in the sky to Bethlehem. What you seek awaits you there.”

When you arrive at the stable, the baby Jesus is placed in your arms and God’s voice is heard,

“I am your exceeding great reward.”

Yes Lord, you overcompensate for my every need. In my ignorance I asked for things while you were the Christmas present I did not know to ask for. My exceeding great reward is you the Giver, not the gifts.

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." Revelation 21:3

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