Loving Hope

God's LOVING ways give us HOPE today and forever.

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Mike Barnett's Loving Hope Messages
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December 2012

The Spirit of Christmas!

When I was in my twenties, and even early thirties, I had no interest in celebrating holidays or special occasions.  On the plus side, I have always given my wife free rein to buy whatever she needs or wants.  But on the negative side, I was not nearly as thoughtful as she wished me to be.  It took me a long time to make significant changes in the arena of gift giving.  Any progress I made occurred in fits and spurts.   One such spurt I’d like to share with you.
 
One year I decided to buy Nancy a set of knives for Christmas.  Since we are vegetarians and make a lot of meals from scratch, I thought she would not only appreciate such a gift, but also use these knives a lot. 
 
I visited every store in the area, collected brochures, and asked questions galore, ultimately believing that the best knives (at the time) were the Henckels five-star collection, but they were incredibly expensive!  Some of the knives I wanted cost a hundred bucks a piece!  Plus, there was a knife block and a chopping block to buy; the total amount came to a small fortune!  Since I was only a beginning locksmith I was able to buy only one item at a time, taking almost the entire year to buy the total package. 
 
I was supposed to get off work at 3:00 pm, at which exact moment my wife expected me to race home in hopes that we could beat some of the holiday traffic.  On a good day the drive took 4 ½ hours, but battling Christmas Eve traffic over a mountain pass can turn such an event into the commute from hell!
 
Disappointed that the pre-paid knife block I had ordered had not arrived, I prepared to leave town without it, but to my delight (and consternation) the cutlery store called me at 2:45 to say I could pick it up.   The mall was very close, normally a ten minute in-and-out gig, but forays on Christmas Eve are like shopping on Black-Friday—the crowds were so huge that the police were directing traffic in and out of their various parking lots.  It took an eternity just to get there let alone find a parking spot!
 
This delay at the mall complicated things a bit as I am a Sabbath-keeper (celebrated from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and it was also Friday; out west the sun goes down at Christmas around 4:10 pm.
 
Success at last!  I ran with little care for my safety from the outermost fringes of the farthest away lot, hurdling cars and dodging through the insane crowds, and fidgeted anxiously till it was my turn in the cutlery store; all the while Nancy was chomping at the bit, wondering why I was not home yet, when I knew the Sabbath was approaching and we needed to get on the road so we could beat the traffic.
 
Defying death (in the guise of angry shoppers!), I sprinted out of the mall with my knife block in hand, only to then fight mammoth traffic lines as everyone who wasn’t currently shopping was driving.
 
My heart was pounding furiously from the stress of it all when I finally pulled into our driveway, my mind whirling with lame excuses (which I delivered to a fuming wife!) and I still needed to find a way to pack all these gifts (11 items) into the car without her seeing them, a task made immensely difficult since while anxiously waiting she had already loaded the car, even packing all my clothes for me!
 
I have no idea just how many excuses I made up to open the trunk and check to see if this or that was there and everything was in order for the trip, but I outdid myself!  I pulled out all the stops!  And just when Nancy was about ready to leave me behind, I finally pronounced myself ready to hit the road.
 
Our late start meant the traffic was horrendous, but the angry, desperate drivers we faced were well matched by my steaming wife, who insisted on driving the first leg so we could make up time.  I prayed that we would not have a flat tire, since accessing the spare meant moving all those gifts “hidden” inside the trunk to the back seat while I fixed the flat.
 
Utterly brain-dead, our lower backs and backsides aching from the long, hard Christmas Eve commute, I finally wheeled into her folks’ driveway at 11:30 pm, completely at a loss as to how I was going to keep Nancy from helping me unload the trunk.
 
Thank God—it was way easier than I imagined it would be!  Her parents gave her their rapt attention, nodding their heads in complete agreement, as with mixed tones of apology and (I humbly admit, utterly righteous!) accusation she explained to them that my dilly-dallying had made us late.  Since I was guilty as charged, and could not explain myself, I sneaked her gifts under the tree while everyone else’s attention was diverted. 
 
So on Christmas day that year I had the incredible privilege of seeing the shock (and delight!) on my wife’s face when I kept handing her another package to open, until each of those individually wrapped, expensive knives were all torn open and inserted into that beautiful wooden block!
 
How does this story resonate with the Christmas event?  Christmas reminds us of the timeless truth that giving is better (way better!) than receiving.  It tells us that real love costs more than we can usually imagine!  God gave us his best, most expensive gift when he gave us His Son Jesus.  And yes, it still comes as a huge shock (and a delight!) to learn that God loves us that much!

 


April 2012

Seeking Treasure!
Matthew 13:44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

These two parables from Jesus speak about the gain that we will receive when Jesus comes into our life. Our joy comes from the certainty that we now have something way better than we have ever before possessed! For we see that the treasure and the pearl both represent Jesus, for in Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).

The two treasure finders share an important characteristic: they both sell everything they have in order to purchase what they believe is the best thing they have ever found.

Yet the two also differ from each other in this way: one finds the treasure without first looking for it, while the other is in search for such a glorious discovery. Here we see that Jesus is reaching out to every person, those seeking Him and those who are not. In this gracious activity we glimpse the love and generosity of God!

Yet both parties end up seeking the valuable treasure, the first party does so after he stumbles upon it and then re-buries it, which necessitates having to find it again.

But more amazing still, both parties have actually been drawn to Jesus even when they were not aware that He was drawing them, (see Jeremiah 31:3).

The really odd part of both parables though is that each has to do all that he can in order to possess the treasure. The Bible portrays Jesus as a gift, but He is a gift that needs to be received.

In order for us to have a relationship with the Jesus who is year after year, day after day, moment by moment drawing us we must give all of ourselves to Him in humble obedience.

Have you seen the treasure that is Jesus? Do you want something in your life that is way better than anything else you have? The treasure is out there—what are you waiting for?

 

Loving Hope
2640 Lancaster-Thornville Rd. | Lancaster, OH 43130