December 2015
From Pastor to Pasture

A Gift ...

For the man who has everything and realizes he has nothing

Coffee boiled in an open pot is one of the most fragrant and pleasing aromas (along with country ham frying) that I remember from my childhood. It still smells mighty good. Our parents made it every morning. I can’t remember how old I was when I started drinking it, too. It was mostly milk, sugar and a little coffee at first, but soon black, hot and unsweetened. Our Uncle Lloyd always drank his from his saucer, hot from the pot, and he always kept a pot cooking on the stove. Michael Combs sings "I’m Drinking From My Saucer Cause My Cup Has Overflowed"that reminds me of Uncle Lloyd. As I got older and started driving, I would take a thermos with me on long drives or all-day fishing trips. Like Gomer Pyle told Andy, "It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold." He, I think, had hot chocolate and ice tea in his. The old thermos bottles had a glass vacuum bottle inside a thin metal jacket. On many occasions after I dropped one, I could hear what sounded like crushed ice inside and knew that it was time to buy a new thermos.

In 1976, I graduated from college and started seminary in New Orleans. It was a long drive from Enterprise to New Orleans. My younger brother, Glenn, gave me a gift shortly afterward. It was a two-quart, stainless-steel, Thermos brand bottle, model No. 2466, stopper No. 764 and the date of Jan. 77 was stamped on the bottom. Today, almost 39 years later, I still use that thermos. The handle has been replaced with straps of inner tube. The cup is long gone. The stopper is almost worn out and I can’t find a replacement. There is a little dent in the bottom where I recently tried to pick it up by the stopper and it pulled out and let the bottle drop. But it still keeps hot coffee hot! I don’t know if it keeps cold things cold because all I ever put in it is coffee. Hundreds of gallons of coffee have I enjoyed from that old bottle. In fact, I have drunk from it several times today at work and as I write these words.

This old thermos bottle is something I treasure and value. I like it because it is sturdy, durable, well-made and functional. It has fully supplied my need for a thermos and is likely to last as long as I do. But more than anything else it is special to me because of who it came from and the love behind the gift. I was not aware or consciously thinking that I needed a really good thermos. I was in the routine of repeatedly buying another cheap one whenever my old one broke. Glenn cared about me and he thought long and hard about something I really needed, but would never likely buy for myself because the price was high and my money was low. I probably could have survived without it, but who knows? He cared about his older brother and he demonstrated his love and compassion by giving me something I really needed and that I have frequently used with great satisfaction, contentment and joy. And every time I use it, I remember that my brother loved me enough to give me a great gift. And it makes me appreciate both him and the gift again. A man I work with donated one of his kidneys to his father a couple of years ago. I imagine his father feels the same way about the love gift he received.

One of the great truths about God is that He loves us. He loves all of us. He loves you. He loves all those people you and I have never met all around the whole world. And He loved us so much that He gave us the one thing we desperately needed above all others. He gave us the most precious gift He could possibly give. He gave His Son, Jesus Christ. And He gave Him to suffer, bleed and die for us so we could live. And He did not love us because we were so cute, sweet and loveable. He loved us when we were dirty, filthy, wicked, evil, rebellious, perverted, hateful and mean. He loved us even though we chose to be his enemies. While we were still sinners, God loved us and Jesus died for us. That is the only hope any of us have. Without that gift we are doomed. Without that gift we are ruined. Without that gift we are dead. Without that gift we are condemned and guilty and helpless.

God loved us and Jesus died for us. That is the only hope we need. Jesus is the difference between living and dying, between Heaven and Hell, between hope and despair, between joyful gladness and endless miserable sorrow, between good and evil, right and wrong, righteousness and wickedness.

In giving us His Son, God gives Himself to us. What a wonderful gift! What a precious gift! What a needed indispensable gift! What a priceless gift! What an undeserved and unearned gift! And it is a gift that keeps on growing and keeps on blessing us more and more. Every day with Jesus truly is sweeter than the day before. Every day with Jesus we do love him more and more. Jesus saves and keeps me. He’s the One I’m living for. For every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and further is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NKJV)

The good news is that God has given us the most wonderful gift in the world and in that gift He gives us everything we need. But a gift must be accepted and received to be possessed and enjoyed. God’s gift is free, but it is not cheap. The only way we receive Jesus is by giving ourselves to Him. Like in marriage, each receives the other only by giving themselves entirely to the other.

If we have received this greatest gift of all, we have the joy, privilege and responsibility to let the world know about the gift God has given to them. We must love them and want them to receive the gift because He loved us and because He loved them, too. The gift is big enough for all of us. Are we big enough for Him?

Steve Crumpler is Glenn’s brother.