Gifts are an expression of love. The Lord Jesus himself reminded us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).While I won’t dispute that wisdom, it still is certainly nice to receive gifts!  Retailer’s shelves are filled with gifts to express our love for one another through gigantic Valentine cards, elaborate bouquets
and heart-shaped boxes filled with tasty chocolates. Our response to the giver, however, may be  just as important as giving gifts, even if we are unable to reciprocate in similar fashion. I received such a gift one time after my dad and I began looking at cars when time had come to trade in the family sedan. Even though I was still two years away from getting my license, the plan was that this would be the car that I would get to drive once I was old enough. I was given a voice in selecting the replacement vehicle and I had found a nice used 1974 Dodge Challenger at a local dealer. A verbal agreement was reached, and my dad would pick the car up a couple of days later. When the day arrived, I brought several friends home from school to see the cool, new car. In the driveway sat the old family sedan. It turned out that the dealer reneged on the deal, and my dad walked away. I was so disappointed! I did have my eyes on another car, coincidently. My mom’s co-worker at the post office had a beautiful, red 1974 Dodge Charger that she had owned since it was new. She would park the car across from the school and my friends and I would look out the window at it and drool! I asked her to sell the car to me one day, even though I knew that I could never afford it. Besides, the family sedan had since been replaced with another boring car. The following year, however,  my dream came true! I came home from school one day and the Charger was parked in my neighbor’s garage. My neighbors, George and Marge, were like grandparents to me. They knew how disappointed I was when the first car deal did not pan out, and they knew how much I wanted that Charger. Upon finding out that the lady was going to trade in the car for a new one, they negotiated a deal and bought it. The car was a gift to me, with no strings attached! I was forever grateful! I also vowed to take good care of that car. I always kept it clean and waxed, and I never drove it in the snow. I bought a beater car for $175 to drive in the winter and left the Charger at home in the garage when I went to college. The
car was a gift to be treasured. Believe it or not, I still own that car today! It is now considered a “classic.”
     How many of us consider church membership as a gift to be treasured? According to Thom Rainer, “This membership is a gift. When I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I became part of the body of Christ. I soon thereafter identified with a local body and was baptized. And now I am humbled and honored to serve and to love others in our church. I pray that I will never take my membership for granted, but see it as a gift and an opportunity to serve others and be a part of something so much greater than any one person or member.” Salvation is the greatest gift that we could ever receive and it is not to be taken for granted. We certainly can never pay it back. However we can treasure that gift through joyful participation in our church family. Find out how we can do that with an attitude that makes a difference. Join Doug Owens 
on Sunday evenings at 6:00 p.m. for the book study, “I Am A Church Member.”

 Blessings and Peace