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What is Your Response?

When we think of February, we think of Valentine's Day. Though the history of Valentine's Day is varied and debatable, for most of us, it is a day we celebrate the gift of love, most notably; romantic love.

However; since I am writing this article two months in advance of distribution, I am thinking about the love we celebrate on Christmas day which is just thirteen days from the day I write this. Valentine's Day is certainly a good and worthy celebration that reminds us of how we should love our spouses every day. But, no other days of the year compare to Christmas and Easter. On these days, we see God's extravagant and sacrificial love poured out on all of mankind.

He left Heaven and come to us as one of us. When we consider the way He lived His life, the suffering and rejection He endured on our behalf, and the giving of His life in exchange for ours, we see that He is the absolute and ultimate expression of "true love". His love is an extravagant love! He gave Himself as a ransom for our sin so that we could be reconciled to God the Father. When He rose from the dead, He defeated Satan, sin, and its ultimate punishment; death and separation from God! He defeated death once and for all for all who would accept His gift of salvation and follow Him. In Him and Him alone, we can have eternal life where He is and where there will be no more sin, grief, sickness, death, sorrow or pain. He has promised to one day wipe every tear from our eyes!

We cannot overemphasize the fact that God gave us His VERY best. He did not hold anything back. The only sacrifice that could remove our sin and the punishment we deserved. was the death of His only Son (God in the flesh). Jesus was and is the only person who was tempted in every way, yet remained sinless and righteous. Mankind could not be reconciled to God in any other way. God, because of His extravagant love for us, gave us Himself through the life of His son Jesus to make us righteous and acceptable.

Often, because of our familiarity with Christian beliefs, we overlook or fail to put flesh on the tremendous cost of the Gospel. God sent His only Son to suffer and die in our place so that we could have eternal life. If we are not careful, the extravagance of the gift of His love and the sacrifice that He made for us can become nothing more than just a 'cliché', where we acknowledge the truth, but fail to recognize and appreciate the real cost of His love for our salvation.

I am not sure that I could even begin to comprehend what it meant for God to send His only Son to be abused, falsely accused, and to give His life for me, had I not been blessed to have children and grandchildren of my own. I love them with all of my heart and I would not hesitate to give my life to save theirs. However; I also know that I could never love anyone else enough that I could sacrifice any of my three children and six grandchildren to die in their place.

The next time you hold your little baby, grandbaby or any baby you love, (for this example, I will refer to the baby as a little boy) take time to hold him and look at his little hands and feet. Smell his breath and the unique scent of his newborn body. Feel his warm breath on your neck as he rests on your shoulder. Watch him as he tries to get his little fist into his mouth when he wants to suckle.

As you look at your little baby, turn him over and look at and feel his little back that is so smooth, soft and covered with a smooth layer of fine baby hair. Try to imagine someone taking a cat of nine tails (a whip with nine strips of coarse leather with sharp nails, rocks and glass tied onto the ends of each strip) and swinging that whip with all their might against his little back. With each blow, the spikes dig deep into his flesh. The flogger then rips it out tearing away flesh and tendons all the way to the bone. Over and over again they flog him until his back is mutilated beyond recognition.

As you hold your baby that you love so much, try to imagine those little hands that are holding your finger being held down and nailed to a rugged cross! Imagine putting those little feet one on top of the other and driving a huge spike through them so that he could push himself up on the cross to get a quick breath of air as he slowly suffocates in excruciating pain. Rub his tender and fragile little head, feeling the pulse in his little soft spot, and imagine taking a crude crown of long, hard thorns and forcing them into the flesh of that precious head. Look at his little bulging abdomen and imagine someone taking a large spear and piercing his little rib cage up through his lungs and into his heart to insure that he is dead.

Take your little child that you love with all your heart, and put Him in Jesus' place on the cross, giving him up to endure all this suffering until he dies--all for the sake of someone else. I am not talking about putting him there for someone who is good and may be deserving of your child's suffering and death. Put your precious baby in Jesus' place for a sinful, ungrateful, merciless, self-serving, ruthless, uncaring, rebellious, selfish and most repulsive person you have ever known, who is capable of murder, rape, torture, pedophilia, adultery, homosexuality and every other evil that you can imagine. Put your precious baby in Jesus' place for a person like that and then you can at least begin to imagine how much God the Father could love someone like you and me enough that He would send His only Son to die for us, in our place, for our sin, so that we could have life and have it to the full!

God sent Jesus, His only son, to take upon Himself the punishment for and the burden of our sin so we could be reconciled to God and inherit eternal life. He also bore our sicknesses and diseases so that we could be healed in every way, forever free from all that could ever eternally harm us.

How can we begin to comprehend such an extravagant love? Since God loves you, me and every other heathen sinner ever born in this world so much that He would send His only Son as a newborn baby into this world to suffer and die in our place, paying the penalty for our sinfulness, how can we not love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength? In light of His extravagant love and sacrifice, how should we live our lives? How should we see and treat others? How can we not live our lives to honor, praise and serve Him who gave His life for us so that we could have life? How could we not give Him all that we have to use for His purposes of making His love know to all the nations? How could we not give Him our very best?

Yet, most of the time, if we give Him anything at all, we only give Him our problems and our leftovers. We do not know His Word and so we spiral further and further away from His will, accepting cultural lies in the place of His Biblical truths. If we attend church at all, we will only give Him 25 minutes to say what He wants to say and do what He wants to do in our lives. If we give Him anything materially, we want to offer the sick, lame, worn out, worthless and mere tokens of our wealth. When we see others in need who are 'unlike' us, we turn away Though we know most of the world is lost and doomed for hell, we make no effort to effectively share God's extravagant love that saved us.

King David, after being convicted by God for pridefully ordering the taking of a census to count all the people of Israel and Judah so as to know how mighty and prosperous his kingdom had become, cried out to God for mercy. An angel of the Lord commanded David to erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor that belonged to one of his subjects. When Kind David approached the owner and told him that he wanted to buy the property to build an altar to the Lord, the owner offered to give the King not only the property, but also his threshing implements for wood for the fire, his oxen for the sacrifice and his wheat for the grain offering. The owner offered the King everything that he had, but David said to the owner: "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor will I offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing."

God has given us His very best! What should be our response? What should we offer Him to show our gratitude? Will we offer Him our leftovers that cost us nothing or will we offer Him ourselves and our very best?

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