On Wings Of Eagles

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

We are Free From Our Sin

Romans 6:11 (New International Version)
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Slavery in the United States was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865. How many slaves were there on December 19? In reality, none, but many still lived like slaves. They did because they never learned the truth. Others knew and even believed that they were free, but chose to continue living as they had always been taught.

Many plantation owners were devastated by this proclamation of emancipation. "We're ruined! Slavery has been abolished. We've lost the battle to keep our slaves." But their chief spokesman slyly responded, "Not necessarily. As long as these people think they're still slaves, the proclamation of emancipation will have no practical effect. You don't have a legal right over them anymore, but many of them don't know it. Keep your slaves from learning the truth, and your control over them will not even be challenged."

"But what if the news spreads?"

"Don't panic. We have another barrel on our gun. We may not be able to keep them from hearing the news, but we can still keep them from understanding it. They don't call me the father of lies for nothing. We still have the potential to deceive the whole world. Just tell them that they misunderstood the Thirteenth Amendment. Tell them that they are going to be free, not that they are free already. The truth they heard is just positional truth, not actual truth. Someday they may receive the benefits, but not now."

"But, they'll expect me to say that. They won't believe me."

"Then pick out a few persuasive ones who are convinced that they're still slaves and let them do the talking for you. Remember, most of these newly freed people were born as slaves and have lived like slaves all their lives. All we have to do is to deceive them so that they still think like slaves. As long as they continue to do what slaves do, it will not be hard to convince them that they must still be slaves. They will maintain their slave identity because of the things they do. The moment they try to profess that they are no longer slaves, just whisper in their ear, `How can you even think you are no longer a slave when you are still doing things that slaves do?' After all, we have the capacity to accuse the brethren day and night."

Years later, many slaves have still not heard the wonderful news that they have been freed, so naturally they continue to live the way they have always lived. Some slaves have heard the good news, but they evaluate it by what they are presently doing and feeling. They reason, "I'm still living in bondage, doing the same things I have always done. My experience tells me that I must not be free. I'm feeling the same way I was before the proclamation, so it must not be true. After all, your feelings always tell the truth." So they continue to live according to how they feel, not wanting to be hypocrites!

One former slave, however, hears the good news, and receives it with great joy. He checks out the validity of the proclamation, and finds out that the highest of all authorities originated the decree. Not only that, but it personally cost that authority a tremendous price, which he willingly paid so that the slave could be free. As a result, the slave's life is transformed. He correctly reasons that it would be hypocritical to believe his feelings and not the truth. Determined to live by what he knows to be true, his experiences began to change rather dramatically. He realizes that his old master has no authority over him and does not need to be obeyed. He gladly serves the one who set him free.'

The gospel is the "proclamation of emancipation" for every sinner who is sold into the slavery of sin. Every person that comes into this world is born dead in his or her trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and is by nature a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). The good news is that we who are Christians are no longer slaves to sin. We are now alive in Christ and dead to sin (Romans 6:11). We have been set free in Christ. We are no longer sinners in the hands of an angry God. We are saints in the hands of a loving God. We are forgiven, justified, redeemed, and born-again children of God. We may not feel like it, we may not act like it, and others may tell us that we are not, but we have been sanctified in Christ and are being sanctified in Him.

Dear Lord we thank You for the freedom that You have given to each of us. Help u snot live as slaves to sin but as ones that are set free by You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Is the Evil One Stealing Your Picnic Basket?

Ephesians 6:11-13 (New International Version)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

There is a story of a black bear in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. If you are planning a picnic in that area you might want to consider what that smart black bear on the loose, is saying.

"He he he. I can't wait for some tourist to come along and eat their lunch. It's unbelievable how gullible they are! They innocently park their cars and amble over to these wonderful picnic tables. Meanwhile I am hiding behind these bushes where no one can see me, patiently biding my time . . .

"I do have to be patient. If I scare them too early, they rush away with all of their delicious food! No, it's far better to wait until they are all settled around the table and have started eating that food that they THINK they have prepared for themselves, but they have REALLY prepared for . . . For me! Then I spring my entrance. Grrrrr! I make sure to growl really loud, and I put on my most vicious face. I also have to move quickly-too quickly for them to grab their food back up!

"As these predicable tourists run for the safety of their cars, I take my time enjoying their delicious lunches. None of them ever dare to come back for their food. They'd better not, otherwise I will pretend to go after them! My goal isn't really to hurt them, only to scare them away, but they don't know that!

"You won't believe the thousands of delicious meals I have been able to steal. It sure beats raw fish and berries! Hey, why don't you come on over and see for yourselves? But be sure to bring your picnic along!"

Sounds a little bit like Yogi Bear, doesn't it? You know, Yogi bear who's smarter than the average bear, Yogi bear who's always in the rangers hair, have a picnic basket you will find him there, that's because he's smarter than the average bear . . .!

Okay, so it isn't really Yogi bear, but it is a true story. I haven’t personally experience this smart bear but I have read about him. 

So often we fall for these kinds of hidden dangers. In fact, the biggest threat of all is mostly ignored as non-existent, and billions of people have paid it with a life of addiction.

This is real! God doesn't tell us to be prepared for nothing! ("Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Eph 6:11-13 NKJV) The world is in a spiritual war zone. The devil finds us easy prey for the addictions he hopes to lure us into. Un aware we unpack our "lunches", only to find ourselves attacked viciously by the intruder called sin, and once in its clutches, it is almost impossible to find freedom.

The good news is that freedom is attainable, by believing in the One who paid the price for our freedom with His life.
Only with God's power can we resist the one who wants to take us as prisoners. Only with God's power can we be free indeed.

Dear Lord we thank You today for the freedom we can have through You. Help us resist the powers of the one who wants to devour us today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Saved, but Not By Our Own Efforts.

Isaiah  64:6 (New International Version)
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

This is clearly seen in New Zealand, in particular in the kiwi orchards. Although they produce delicious, world-renown fruit, the kiwi vines can fall into "temptation". Cold can cause them to split in two, rendering them completely useless.

Do you know how they can victoriously withstand their "temptation" to split in two from the cold? Not by their own efforts! They would be doomed!

Helicopters are used to hover over the orchards, forcing warmer air down on the vines. The kiwi fruit is saved, not by their own efforts, but by the courageous helicopter pilots who willingly wake up before sunrise and with eyes held open by toothpicks, take the time to protect the precious orchards from the "tempting" cold.

People, too, have succumbed to cold. As soon as the cold invades their inner core, they are tempted to fall asleep, never to wake up again! However there is a more noxious cold that has invaded our whole world, one that leaves each of us wanting and in despair. The "cold", better known as "sin", is devastating and it has contaminated each one of us.

We may fill ourselves with delusions, thinking we are better than people like Hitler and Nero. And we are, to some extent. And this idea somehow makes us feel better! But in all reality, how many people around us have we not disappointed by our own actions? And what about ourselves? Haven't we also disappointed ourselves with our actions?

Only One can set us free from condemnation, and He paid a hefty price for it. There is a catch. To be truly free we have to get to know Him personally and we must accept His offer to let Him rescue us totally and unequivocally. He is the only One who can fill us with the warm air from above that will keep us from freezing to death from the ravages of sin! He is there for us, not only early in the morning, but all the time, 24 hours a day, with no annoying "please call me back later" messages. He is truly the only "warm air" we need to breathe!

"Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving." (Eph 2:8-10 The Message)

Only when we truly appreciate the price He paid for us will we be able to worship Him from the deepest recesses of our heart. We will be able to truthfully sing: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Rev 5:9-10 NIV)

Dear Lord we thank You that You are there start to finish, no matter the circumstances we find our self in. Lord We pray that we would be able to share that with somebody today. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Buffalo and Freedom.

Hebrews 2:14-15 (New International Version)
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

It has been estimated that when white man first discovered America, there were between 27 million and 100 million buffalo on the American and Canadian prairies. By 1889, there were less than a thousand!

What happened to precipitate this near-disappearance of such a huge animal?

Before Europeans arrived on this continent, Indians were the primary natural predator of the Buffalo. They used these creatures for food, for decoration, for clothing, for their dwellings … Every part of the animal was used. Without the buffalo, they would not have survived; and their sole purpose for hunting the animal was for their own survival.

White men hunted buffalo for very different reasons. These included the following:

1. For its fur and tongue (venison).

Buffalo fur was a source of great income, and Buffalo tongue was considered a great delicacy. After taking these two body parts, white hunters were known to leave entire carcasses rotting on the prairie.

2. For the fun of hunting.

Men with riffles on horse-back made a sport of hunting the buffalo.

3. To control Indians through hunger, and to force them into reserves.

The government encouraged the large-scale killing of these animals. They were well aware that without the buffalo, the Indians would be forced to depend on the white man for survival. With the buffalo gone, they would be easily herded onto the reserves.

4. During the construction of the railroad, buffalo meat was used as a cheap way to feed foreign workers.

In other words the near extinction of this animal was solely for money, sport and the manipulation of the indigenous populations of Canada and the United States. Nowadays, thanks to state and provincial parks such as Fort Whyte Centre, the buffalo population has increased merely to the 300,000 mark.

I know of only one other being whose sole purpose of existence is to destroy: "The thief (referring to the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy…" (John 10:10 NIV)

The devil succeeded in bringing all of humanity into slavery by addicting them to sin, which ultimately resulted in death: "For the wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23 NIV)

He has no good intentions towards any human being. However the second part of John 10:10, as well as Rom 6:23 bring us some terrific news: "…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV); and "…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23 NIV).

Mankind was destined for complete annihilation before God, in His mercy, stopped the process. However, the price was costly: "Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Heb 2:14-15 NIV)

Freedom and eternal survival is yours! All you need to do is accept God's offer of freedom. You no longer need to be slaves to sin. You can be free from addictions! God has paid the price for you, no matter how horrible your past might seem. Will you accept this freedom?

The Buffalo is once again grazing the prairie grasslands in America, free of fear of hunting expeditions, safe within the protective boundaries of hundreds of state and provincial parks and reserves. Freedom can be yours as well. It's your choice. Don't believe what the destroyer of your soul suggests in your mind: "You are worthless! God will never forgive you nor free you from your past." This is a lie from Satan himself. You are so important to God that Jesus willingly died for you so that you could have the opportunity to experience eternal freedom. It is yours if you just believe and accept His offer. He loves you!

Dear Lord we thank You for the freedom we can have through You. Help us today show that freedom to those You bring into our path today. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Our Search For Freedom.

John 8:34-36 (King James Version )
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Jack Reece of Panama City, Florida, recounts his experience of helping a friend who lived on a farm. They were working on a barbed-wire fence which surrounded a lush green pasture. As Reece worked alongside his friend, something peculiar caught his attention. He couldn't help but notice that between each of the barbs, there were several strands of differently colored hair. He wondered about this and decided to ask his friend about the strange sight. He was told that no matter how wide an area the fence covered, or how much green grass there was in the center of the field, the cattle will graze just inside fence, right along the edge. Often, the cattle will even stick their heads through the fence to eat the grass on the other side. And as they press against the fence, their hairs would become trapped between the barbs.

Concerning this experience, Reece made the following observation: "Even animals want to be free!"

Freedom is a precious commodity for the human race as well. Yet, as is inscribed on a Korean War memorial in Washington D.C., "Freedom is not free." Someone has to pay the price for our liberty.

What is true of our national liberty is also true for each of us, spiritually! Due to our sin, NONE of us is free; we are ALL "shackled" by sin. Jesus said, "Whoever commits sin is a "slave of sin" (John 8:34). Now "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and the wages or "PAYCHECK" that we receive for SIN - is DEATH (Romans 6:23).

Thankfully, someone HAS paid the price for our liberty! His name is Jesus, and He paid the price for our redemption when He died on the cross for our sins. And that is GOOD NEWS!! EVERY man and woman in bondage to sin who is crying on the inside, "LET ME OUT!" needs to know that he/she can be set FREE because of what Jesus did on that Roman cross.

We receive the benefits of Christ's sacrificial death when we respond in faith: (Romans 5:1), placing our trust in Him (Acts 16:31), repenting of our sins (Acts 2:38), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) so that our sins can be washed away (Acts 22:16). Christ KEEPS us free from the bondage of sin... as long as we continue to put Him FIRST and live according to His will (1 John 1:7).

"Therefore... if the Son makes you FREE, you shall be FREE INDEED!" (John 8:36).

Jesus has PAID the price for your freedom. Why not make today the day you accept the gift of freedom.

Dear Lord we thank You for the freedom we have because of what You have done for each of us. Help us share that freedom today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hoodoos and Sin

John 10:10 (New International Version)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Encountering the Canadian badlands is quite an experience. One moment you are driving on a completely flat prairie, able to see for miles around, and the next minute you are surrounded by sheer, bare, hellish hills.

Imagine living in the time where cars were non-existent (A time when gas was cheaper than hay!). Your mode of transportation is a horse-drawn wagon . You are making great progress, a good 5 miles an hour. You should reach the West Coast within the next month or two at this rate. How exciting! Then, to your dismay, you encounter a dip in the trail, leading you to an unrealistic, red-streaked, moon-like landscape, littered with tall, sentinel-like formations. There is no water, no trail big enough for a wagon to pass, and the descent is far too steep for a wagon. There is no way you can get across. Instead of reaching your destination in two months, it may take you two years! In your letter back home, you can't help but complain a little about these "bad lands" (hence the name, Badlands!).

As you look around, you wonder who those strange sentinels are. You find out they are called hoodoos (not voodoos, that is something completely different, believe me!), and they are believed by the local natives to be sleeping giants, standing on guard. According to legend, they come alive by night and throw their heads on any unfortunate human trying to sleep nearby. You don't really believe the stories, but you decide to stay as far away from those as possible. This turns out to be quite an impossible task however, as there is a whole army of them!

If you were to take the time to examine those hoodoos, you would discover that they consist largely of loosely cemented sandstone and mudstone (and you thought cement did not exist in the past!), interlaced with harder rock such as glacial boulders and ironstone, an iron-rich sandstone that is responsible for the rusty-looking cliffs around you. And if you were to watch them over the years, you would learn that the harder rock on top shields parts of the softer sandstone underneath from erosion. In the summer especially, sudden thunderstorms and winds assault those hoodoos and erode away the unprotected softer material, creating these unrealistic, capped sentinels. The sandstone underneath the cap continues to erode however, albeit at a slower rate, until it can no longer support the stronger rock above, and the cap topples off. Then what remains of the hoodoos quickly erodes away. Not fast enough, however, to flatten the landscape and let you pass with your horse-drawn wagon!

Those hoodoos remind me of how sin tends to erode our lives away. We all have some strong, positive character traits (the harder rock parts) that are a blessing to others. Being there for someone when they are down, for example, or being willing to help someone move. However, like the soft sandstone, our sinful nature hinders us from being the real person we could become. In fact, if left unattended, sin will "erode" us, causing us to develop addictive, destructive habits, and just as the cap on the hoodoos eventually topples off, these habits can destroy our relationships with those close to us.

"If I had known…" so many say, "but now it is too late!"

We are all in the same boat-or in the same horse-drawn buggy? "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" (Rom 3:23 NIV)

The more we struggle with our addictive sins, the more they become engrained in us and the less freedom seems to be an option. Little by little our true selves erode away and we change into a senseless, monstrous blob that no one seems to be able to control.

The good news? There is someone who can help us reach freedom, someone who can help us discover our true personality. He is the One who helped me break free from addictions, too shameful to be shared in open public. Freedom can be yours as well. It is available solely through the One and only named Jesus. His words are true: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV); and "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36 NIV)

He is trying to reach you. Will you let Him? "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28 NIV)

What will you do with all these monsters in your life? Leave them to Jesus and watch how His grace will transform you from a monstrous blob into the real you. Freedom at last!

Dear Lord we thank You for the freedom we can have through You. Help us turn all those things over to You today that erode our life from what You want it to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Bully is Contained.

John 8:36 (New International Version)
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

1925 was not a good year for the coal miners in East Coulee, Alberta. The shoddy work and living conditions led to constant complaints. The "devil's dust", referring to the coal dust they were forced to breathe for 8 hours straight every day, was deadly to the miners' lungs. They were tired of the constant lay-offs, the long hours with little pay, and the dangerous working conditions. Workers decided to "walk out".

Needless to say, their employers were not overly excited by this plan. They needed to get the coal out of the earth, so they hired what was called "special constables" to get the men back underground. These "special constables" were paid ten dollars a day and all the booze they could drink. They then set out, using crow bars, iron knuckles and pickax handles as motivators, and the main "walk out" agitators were tarred and feathered and carried outside town on wooden poles.

Eventually unions were formed and deals were reached so that the coal miners would be treated with more respect.

The coal industry boomed during World War II, and miners who tried to enlist were often refused. Coal was needed during the war, and the country couldn't afford to have all of the miners off fighting in Europe! But after WWII, natural gas was discovered, and the coal industry quickly declined. Mines closed all across the country, and even the unions couldn't help the plight of the coal miner.

One may be shocked by the methods used to motivate the miners back to work when they walked out on their jobs; however there is a much worse "special constable" at work on this planet, one that we largely ignore. Billions of people are ensnared by the lures he sets out to enslave them for life. He uses addictions, pursuit of fame and wealth, and anything else that could take away their thoughts from the One who could help them enjoy "real life". "The thief (the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV)

Unlike the miners' unions, who were able to make a difference in the lives of the men but in the end were unable to save their jobs, there is One who is able to set you completely free from the clutches of the devil.
Freedom never comes without a price, and the One who cares for you paid it in full: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV)

Would you like to experience complete freedom from addictions? Are you hungering to enjoy life to the fullest? Then come to Jesus and accept the real freedom He is offering you. Only then will you come really alive. "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37-38 NIV)

The evil one will not be able to continue to bully you any longer, as long as you follow the true freedom provided through Jesus. Even "special constables" are no match to our forever friend named Jesus. Freedom can be yours. The decision is yours.

Dear Lord we thank You that we have freedom from the bully. Give us the opportunity to share that good news with somebody today. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wisdom from a little Boy and a Windshield Wiper

1 John 1:9 (New International Version)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I ran across this story as told by a mother and was really touched. I hope you enjoy it like I did. What a great lesson.

One rainy afternoon I was driving along one of the main streets of town, taking those extra precautions necessary when the roads are wet and slick.

Suddenly, my son Matthew spoke up from his relaxed position in the front seat. "Mom, I'm thinking of something." This announcement usually meant he had been pondering some fact for a while and was now ready to expound all that his seven-year-old mind had discovered. I was eager to hear.

"What are you thinking?" I asked.

"The rain," he began, "is like sin. And the windshield wipers are like God, wiping our sins away."

After the chill bumps-raced up my arms, I was able to respond, "That's really good, Matthew." Then my curiosity broke in. How far would this little boy take this revelation? So I asked, "Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming?

What does that tell you?"

Matthew didn't hesitate one moment with his answer. "We keep on sinning and God just keeps on forgiving us."

Dear Lord we thank You for always forgiving us of our sins. We pray today that we would have the strength to not do the things we know we shouldn’t. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Unforgiveness and Rotting Oranges.

Matthew 6:14-15 (New International Version)
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Imagine starting your week out with a clear backpack and a baf of oranges. For each person that you refuse to forgive, you must take an orange and write that person's name, date and what you refuse to forgive onto the orange.

And then you must put that orange into your clear backpack.

How long would it be before your bag filled up with oranges because of your unforgiveness?

But, not only must you fill the bag up with all of the ill will and resentment and bitterness you have, you must also carry that bag with you everywhere you go. It sits next to you in your automobile on the drive to work, sits in your lap as you dine out at your favorite restaurant, and it nestles close to you as you sleep in bed at night.

Everywhere you go, it goes with you.

And my how it begins to stink after a while. Imagine carrying those same oranges (and adding new ones too!) with you day after day, week after week...

...month after month, and year after year. (after all, that's how long some people refuse to forgive others for things they have done!)

After a while those heavy oranges of unforgiveness start weighing you down, don't they? They become hard to bear --- what a weight to carry around spiritually. And they sure do cause a stink --- a stink to yourself and to those around you.

You know, it might be nice if unforgiveness were handled this way. And maybe then Christians would realize how heavy a weight we carry when we choose to not forgive those who offend us. Maybe then we would understand the stench that we create when we harbor ill will and bitterness towards others.

Maybe then we would realize that rotting, stinking oranges (unforgiveness) need to be thrown out into the garbage heap and forgotten about.

What about you this morning? Are you carrying around unforgiveness? Is there someone that you have ill will towards, or resentment, or bitterness, or a bad attitude --- because of something they did in the past, or something they should have done that they did not? Even one orange in your bag is enough to cause a stink and become difficult to carry day after day.

Why not stop lugging around that bag of unforgiveness? Jesus is ready to give you a new bag that is clean and empty of ill will. It starts with asking Him for forgiveness, and then it requires you to forgive others.

Dear Lord we pray today that we would take all the unforgiveness that we are carrying and turn it over to You so that our backpack will be empty. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Verdict in the Sand

John 8:8-11 (New American Standard Bible)
8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

The scales are unbalanced from the onset. One look at the jurors' faces convinces her of that. The courtroom is crowded with angry, vengeful, spectators. In her anxiety, it takes a while to recognize that everyone, excluding herself, is male.

Caught engaging in the most heinous crime a woman can, her fear of the consequences nauseate and repel her simultaneously. At the very least, she will wear a scarlet 'A' for the remainder of her days. She fears the angry mob will demand nothing less than her life.

Helplessly, she understands there is nothing she can say in her defense. With forewarning, she might possibly have fled the scene of her crime. No opportunity for escape presented itself. Caught, arrested, and brought forth to face her accusers, she waits, fearfully, for sentencing.

Will the judge be fair? Would the words of her counsel persuade him to go easy? On the other hand, will he share in the disposition of the jury and spectators? Will her life end this day?

Her chances for acquittal are slim. Neither being coerced, misled, or blackmailed she willingly engaged in her crime. Therefore, her life rests in the defense of her court appointed attorney.

A sudden hush fills the room as the white robed judge enters. By the look of awe on everyone's face, she realizes she is in the presence of greatness. Her fear escalates one hundredfold, especially since the absence of her attorney is conspicuously obvious.

"All rise". Once the judge sits, the proceedings begin. The prosecuting attorney, all fired up, is ready to tear her to shreds. The facts he has gathered pointing towards her guilt has him prematurely feeling victorious. The non-presence of her lawyer seems to further prove her guilt.

She looks no different from you or me. In fact, she could be. She sits quietly, conservatively dressed, devoid of makeup; except for the concealer used in the vain attempt at hiding the stress lines on her face.

Witness after witness testify to her guilt. As she listens, she feels her lifeblood draining out of her. Everything said is true. How, in God's name, can she hope she will escape?

Finally, the prosecution rests. Is the defense ready to present its case? "What case? It is ALL true," she thinks. One man rises from the onlookers, making his way to the bench. This is her counsel? As he reaches the front of the courtroom, he respectfully addresses the judge. "Your Honor, I have only one witness. Will the accused please take the stand?"

Stunned, she rises and walks bemusedly to the witness stand. Sworn in, she sits. She has yet to look upon the face of her defense attorney. Fear has possessed her and robbed her of all reason.

He speaks. Is she guilty of the crime? "Yes, dear God, I am", she says with tears streaming. Counsel then states it has no more witnesses and rests. Dejectedly, she returns to her table.

Summation begins. Fire and brimstone allegations come spewing out of the prosecution's mouth. Once finished, there is little doubt in her mind that anything her counsel will say can convince this court to be lenient.

She at last looks at her judge. His face is kind, and is that a look of compassion? Counsel approaches the jury box. His words are softly spoken yet audible to all.

"The prosecution has proven its case. A woman sits before you who has confessed to her crime. As you decide her fate, let me say, to him who has no sin; let him be the one to decide life or death."

Utter quiet permeates the courtroom. No one moves. One by one, the jurors' faces change from fury to shame. The foreman rises and says, "Your Honor, we have reached a verdict."

Her judge instructs her to rise. As she faces those who have decided her fate, she trembles uncontrollably.

As one voice, the twelve members pronounce the words she never expected to hear. "Not guilty." Spinning her head towards counsel, she sees him for the first time. Confronted with a look of total acceptance and unconditional love, she is totally overcome.

In disbelief she witnesses the merging of her judge and advocate into One. The rest of the courtroom has mysteriously vanished. She then realizes she is in the presence of Spirit rather than Man but who are also both.

A question echoes from the stillness.

"Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"

A look of joy radiates from her face now. She answers, "No Sir, no one."

Her Savior responds, "Neither do I. Go on your way, and do not let me see you here again."

She leaves the courtroom forever changed. From that day forward she lives a life free from guilt and condemnation. The trial that should have resulted in her death brought life instead.

Dear Lord we want to thank You today forgiving us of our sins. We pray that we would judge but that we would bring others to the forgiveness that You give freely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We are All Too Poor To Pay

Mark 10:45 (New International Version)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

A well-known physician had died. His widow, in trying to collect the money owed her husband, found that he had written in his record book with red ink across many names the words, "Forgiven; too poor to pay."

When she brought the book up to the courthouse, the probate judge asked:

"Madam, is this the handwriting of your husband?"

"Yes, sir, that is his writing."

"Well, then, it will have to stand."

"Forgiven; too poor to pay." Those words have been written over the name of every soul in the world who has come to the foot of the cross asking for help. Nobody that ever has been born has been rich enough to pay the debt of sin charged against us. It is a debt that we ourselves can never pay.

Dear Lord we thank You for paying our debt of sin by dying on the cross. Help us share that gift with those around us today. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Source: Signs of the Times, Copyright (c) November 3, 1931

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

6 Shots and Forgiveness

Mark 11:25 (New International Version)
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech to the AFL-CIO at the Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. At 2:30 p.m., accompanied by Secret Service and aides, the President walked out of the ballroom and through the lobby. He was on his way to a waiting limousine and waving at the friendly crowd of reporters and onlookers when a young man, John Hinckley Jr., went into a shooter's crouch and fired six shots. The shots struck the President in the chest just 1 inch from his heart, Presidential Press Secretary James Brady in the brain, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy in the stomach, and Metropolitan Police Officer Thomas Delahant in the neck.

Though it was a serious situation, Reagan reacted in a casual manner and even whispered to his wife at George Washington Hospital, "Honey, I forgot to duck." Reagan's attitude made a strong impression on his daughter, Patti Davis. She said: "The following day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like thinking."

Do you need to forgive someone?

Dear Lord we pray to day that You would open our eyes and we would see those that we need to forgive. Help us not hold a grudge but offer forgiveness instead. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Seventy Times Seven

Matthew 18:21-22 (New International Version)
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Here is a story I read that is very powerful.

Lisa sat on the floor of her old room, staring at the box that lay in front of her. It was an old shoe box that she had decorated to become a memory box many years before. Stickers and penciled flowers covered the top and sides. Its edges were worn, the corners of the lid taped so as to keep their shape.

It had been three years since Lisa last opened the box. A sudden move to Boston had kept her from packing it. But now that she was back home, she took the time to look again at the memories. Fingering the corners of the box and stroking its cover, Lisa pictured in her mind what was inside.

There was a photo of the family trip to the Grand Canyon, a note from her friend telling her that Nick Bicotti liked her, and the Indian arrowhead she had found while on her senior class trip.

One by one, she remembered the items in the box, lingering over the sweetest, until she came to the last and only painful memory. She knew what it looked like--a single sheet of paper upon which lines had been drawn to form boxes, 490 of them to be exact. And each box contained a check mark, one for each time.

The story behind it..........

"How many times must I forgive my brother?" the disciple Peter had asked Jesus. "Seven times?" Lisa's Sunday school teacher had read Jesus' surprise answer to the class. "Seventy times seven."

Lisa had leaned over to her brother Brent as the teacher continued reading. "How many times is that?" she whispered. Brent, though two years younger, was smarter than she was.

"Four hundred and ninety," Brent wrote on the corner of his Sunday school paper. Lisa saw the message, nodded, and sat back in her chair. She watched her brother as the lesson continued. He was small for his age, with narrow shoulders and short arms. His glasses were too large for his face, and his hair always matted in swirls. He bordered on being a nerd, but his incredible skills at everything, especially music, made him popular with his classmates. Brent had learned to play the piano at age four, the clarinet at age seven, and had just begun to play oboe. His music teachers said he'd be a famous musician someday. There was only one thing at which Lisa was better than Brent--basketball. They played it almost every afternoon after school. Brent could have refused to play, but he knew that it was Lisa's only joy in the midst of her struggles to get C's and D's at school.

Lisa's attention came back to her Sunday school teacher as the woman finished the lesson and closed with prayer. That same Sunday afternoon found brother and sister playing basketball in the driveway. It was then that the counting had begun. Brent was guarding Lisa as she dribbled toward the basket. He had tried to bat the ball away, got his face near her elbow, and took a shot on the chin. "Ow!", he cried out and turned away.

Lisa saw her opening and drove to the basket, making an easy lay-up. She gloated over her success but stopped when she saw Brent. "You okay?",she asked. Brent shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry," Lisa said. "Really. It was a cheap shot." "It's all right. I forgive you," he said. A thin smile then formed on his face. "Just 489 more times though."

"Whaddaya mean?" Lisa asked.

"You know...what we learned in Sunday school today. You're supposed to forgive someone 490 times. I just forgave you, so now you have 489 left," he kidded. The two of them laughed at the thought of keeping track of every time Lisa had done something to Brent. They were sure she had gone past 490 long ago.

The rain interrupted their game, and the two moved indoors. "Wanna play Battleship?" Lisa asked. Brent agreed, and they were soon on the floor of the living room with their game boards in front of them. Each took turns calling out a letter and number combination, hoping to hit each other's ships. Lisa knew she was in trouble as the game went on. Brent had only lost one ship out of five. Lisa had lost three. Desperate to win, she found herself leaning over the edge of Brent's barrier ever so slightly. She was thus able to see where Brent had placed two of his ships. She quickly evened the score. Pleased, Lisa searched once more for the location of the last two ships. She peered over the barrier again, but this time Brent caught her in the act. "Hey, you're cheating!" He stared at her in disbelief.

Lisa's face turned red. Her lips quivered. "I'm sorry," she said, staring at the carpet. There was not much Brent could say. He knew Lisa sometimes did things like this. He felt sorry that Lisa found so few things she could do well. It was wrong for her to cheat, but he knew the temptation was hard for her.

"Okay, I forgive you," Brent said. Then he added with a small laugh, "I guess it's down to 488 now, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess so." She returned his kindness with a weak smile and added, "Thanks for being my brother, Brent."

Brent's forgiving spirit gripped Lisa, and she wanted him to know how sorry she was. It was that evening that she had made the chart with the 490 boxes. She showed it to him before he went to bed. "We can keep track of every time I mess up and you forgive me," she said.

"See, I'll put a check in each box--like this." She placed two marks in the upper left-hand boxes.

"These are for today." Brent raised his hands to protest. "You don't need to keep--"

"Yes I do!" Lisa interrupted. "You're always forgiving me, and I want to keep track. Just let me do this!" She went back to her room and tacked the chart to her bulletin board.

There were many opportunities to fill in the chart in the years that followed. She once told the kids at school that Brent talked in his sleep and called out Rhonda Hill's name, even though it wasn't true. The teasing caused Brent days and days of misery. When she realized how cruel she had been, Lisa apologized sincerely. That night she marked box number 96. Forgiveness number 211 came in the tenth grade when Lisa failed to bring home his English book. Brent had stayed home sick that day and had asked her to bring it so he could study for a quiz. She forgot and he got a C.

Number 393 was for lost keys...418 for the extra bleach she put in the washer, which ruined his favorite polo shirt...449, the dent she had put in his car when she had borrowed it.

There was a small ceremony when Lisa checked number 490. She used a gold pen for the check mark, had Brent sign the chart, and then placed it in her memory box.

"I guess that's the end," Lisa said.

"No more screw-ups from me anymore!" Brent just laughed.

"Yeah, right." Number 491 was just another one of Lisa's careless mistakes, but its hurt lasted a lifetime. Brent had become all that his music teachers said he would. Few could play the oboe better than he. In his fourth year at the best music school in the United States, he received the opportunity of a lifetime--a chance to try out for New York City's great orchestra.

The tryout would be held sometime during the following two weeks. It would be the fulfillment of his young dreams. But he never got the chance. Brent had been out when the call about the tryout came to the house. Lisa was the only one home and on her way out the door, eager to get to work on time. "Two-thirty on the tenth," the secretary said on the phone. Lisa did not have a pen, but she told herself that she could remember it.

"Got it. Thanks." I can remember that, she thought. But she did not. It was a week later around the dinner table that Lisa realized her mistake.

"So, Brent," his mom asked him, "When do you try out?" "Don't know yet. They're supposed to call." Lisa froze in her seat.

"Oh, no!" she blurted out loud. "What's today's date? Quick!"

"It's the twelfth," her dad answered. "Why?"

A terrible pain ripped through Lisa's heart. She buried her face in her hands, crying. "Lisa, what's the matter?" her mother asked. Through sobs Lisa explained what had happened. "It was two days ago...the tryout...two-thirty...the call came...last week." Brent sat back in his chair, not believing Lisa.

"Is this one of your jokes, sis?" he asked, though he could tell her misery was real. She shook her head, still unable to look at him. "Then I really missed it?" She nodded.

Brent ran out of the kitchen without a word. He did not come out of his room the rest of the evening. Lisa tried once to knock on the door, but she could not face him. She went to her room where she cried bitterly. Suddenly she knew that she had to do. She had ruined Brent's life. He could never forgive her for that. She had failed her family, and there was nothing to do but to leave home. Lisa packed her pickup truck in the middle of the night and left a note behind, telling her folks she'd be all right. She began writing a note to Brent, but her words sounded empty to her. Nothing I say could make a difference anyway, she thought. Two days later she got a job as a waitress in Boston. She found an apartment not too far from the restaurant. Her parents tried many times to reach her, but Lisa ignored their letters.

"It's too late," she wrote them once. "I've ruined Brent's life, and I'm not coming back."

Lisa did not think she would ever see home again. But one day in the restaurant where she worked she saw a face she knew. "Lisa!" said Mrs. Nelson, looking up from her plate. "What a surprise."

The woman was a friend of Lisa's family from back home. "I was so sorry to hear about your brother," Mrs. Nelson said softly.

"Such a terrible accident. But we can be thankful that he died quickly. He didn't suffer." Lisa stared at the woman in shock.

"Wh-hat," she finally stammered.

It couldn't be! Her brother? Dead? The woman quickly saw that Lisa did not know about the accident. She told the girl the sad story of the speeding car, the rush to the hospital, the doctors working over Brent. But all they could do was not enough to save him.

Lisa returned home that afternoon.


Now she found herself in her room thinking about her brother as she held the small box that held some of her memories of him. Sadly, she opened the box and peered inside. It was as she remembered, except for one item--Brent's chart. It was not there. In its place, at the bottom of the box, was an envelope. Her hands shook as she tore it open and removed a letter. The first page read:

Dear Lisa, It was you who kept count, not me. But if you're stubborn enough to keep count, use the new chart I've made for you. Love, Brent

Lisa turned to the second page where she found a chart just like the one she had made as a child, but on this one the lines were drawn in perfect precision. And unlike the chart she had kept, there was but one check mark in the upper left-hand corner. Written in red felt tip pen over the entire page were the words:

"Number 491. Forgiven, forever."

Dear Lord we thank You that You have forgiven us forever. We pray today that our heart would be a heart of forgiveness. Help us to forgive others as You have forgiven us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.