Mercy and Grace

Given February 2015

I entered the courtroom in shackles on my hands and feet and wearing the standard orange prison jumpsuit.  I was led to the front of the courtroomJudge where I was directed to sit down.  “Oh, what have I gotten myself into?”  “Why did I do those things?”  “What was I thinking?”  “Well, this looks like the end for me.”

I was brought back to reality by the authoritative voice of the judge, “Next case!”  The bailiff called my name and I tentatively rose and approached the bench.  The judge glanced at me then began looking at my file and the crimes I was accused of committing.  He said, “Son, I see you’ve not been in trouble before but these charges now are pretty serious.”  “With the evidence here against you, you are guilty and the sentencing guidelines are clear.”  The judge looked back down at my file.  My heart was racing and sweat began to form on my forehead. I swallowed hard as he looked back up at me.  “Here it comes”, I thought, “my life is over.”

“Sir, you’ve made some serious mistakes here and made some bad choices.”  “Are you sorry for what you have done?”  “Yes, Your Honor, I am very sorry.”  “Well, I believe you are and I believe you’re basically a good man so I’m going to do something different here today.”  “I’m going to give you a second chance.”  “By my authority as judge of the First District, I am dropping all these charges against you.”  “You are free to go.”

That is Mercy!  When you don’t get what you deserve.

I was stunned!  I saw the judge raise his gavel and I heard the sound when it hit his desk.  With opened mouth and wide, tear-filled eyes, I cried, “Thank you Your Honor, thank you so much!”  He nodded at me and replied, “Now go and make something of your life.”  “I will Sir, thank you.”

The bailiff led me over to the side of the courtroom where the shackles were removed from my feet and hands as my family came up to meet me.  We embraced in tears at the good fortune given me by the judge.  We could not believe what had just happened.  I turned to thank the bailiff and extended my hand.  However, the bailiff, instead of shaking hands, placed an envelope in my hand.  I said, “What’s this?”  “I don’t understand.”  He said, “The judge had done some research on your background and found that you are a decent man, had recently lost your job and had some really bad luck in your life.”  “He wanted to help you get started with your new life and wanted to give you this.”  I thanked him and exchanged puzzled looks with my family as I opened the envelope.  To my shock and surprise, inside there was a check for $10,000!  I looked back toward the judge, shaking my head in disbelief, as he smiled and nodded at me.

That is Grace!  When you get something you don’t deserve.

God is merciful and graceful like that.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).

Fear Not

There are many things in this life that create fear in our minds.  Some fear is valid such as the fear of touching a hot stove which would burn us or the fear of a dangerous activity.  Then there is the fear of things that are not relevant such as the unknown, the dark or imagined things.  I’ve heard the acronym, F E A R – False Evidence Appearing Real.  Many things we fear appear real or are imagined to be real but in fact are not.  The Gospels list about 125 commands of Jesus and of these, twenty-one is “to not be afraid”.  The second most, which appear eight times, is to love God and your neighbor.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  So where does the spirit of fear come from?  Of course, it comes from the devil!  So why do we accept something the devil shoves at us?  Well, we’re not alone.

In three of the Gospels is the story of Jesus and His disciples on the lake when a storm came up.  Jesus was napping but the disciples were afraid and went to Him for help.  He got up, calmed the storm then rebuked them for being afraid.  We might think, “They were with Jesus, why were they afraid?”  Jesus is with us always (Hebrews 13:5), so should we be afraid?  No.  But the point is we will go through storms in life so we need Jesus with us always AND be calmed by that fact.

When my grandkids were small, they would not want to walk home across the yard after dark.  They asked me to go with them and I did.  When Pawpaw was with them, there was no fear.  They knew and trusted that I would take care of them.  That’s the concept of no fear with Jesus.

If you’re troubled with fear, I suggest you take a little time and Google some scriptures relating to fear, such as 2 Timothy 1:7 above, and memorize them.  Then when you feel fear coming on, recite these Biblical truths and tell the devil to back off!  Fear is not something we should be harassed by because it hinders or blocks us from Gods plan for us.  FEAR NOT!

The Lord Has Need Of It

Given December 30, 2014

While reading my daily Bible passage about the last days of Jesus, the part about preparing the upper room for the last supper brought a thought to my mind. Luke 22:10-12 tells us, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” Jesus had a need and He had apparently prepared people ahead of time to meet that need. The man with the jar of water, the owner of the house, and his disciples were all a part of the plan. The Lord’s need was fulfilled by others. Almost immediately, other Bible passages came to my mind about similar circumstances where the Lord had a need.

Jesus was planning His final trip to Jerusalem which we know as, “The Triumphal Entry” and He needed a donkey to ride in on. “Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21:1-3). The Lord needs them. The owner of the animals readily gave them to the Lord because He needed them.

Another time, Jesus was ministering to a large crowd on a hillside and His disciples were concerned that the people were getting hungry and needed to go get something to eat. Jesus told them to give the people something to eat and they complained that it would take half a year’s wages to feed so many. I can imagine Jesus saying something like, “OK then what do we have?” “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8-9). Jesus had a need and a boy in the crowd offered his lunch. In Jesus’ hands, that small lunch fed around 15,000 people that day.

A home owner, a donkey owner and a boy with a lunch, they all had something the Lord needed and were willing to give it up for His use. Great things were accomplished as a result. Yes, Jesus could have miraculously created an upper room, a donkey or food for thousands but He wanted to use what was already there; to involve people in His plans. The Bible doesn’t say but I can imagine that those who gave were truly blessed. My question is this: What do we have that the Lord has need of? If the Lord directly asked you for something you had, would you give it? Of course you would. But what if someone else came and asked for something saying, “The Lord has need of it.” What would your response be? Do we hear His request when the offering plate comes by or when we hear of a benevolent need in our community? “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.‘”(Matthew 25:40).

In the coming year, let’s be more aware of the needs around us and be willing to offer our time, expertise, or money to help meet those needs. The Lord needs it and we have it. Offer it for His use and see what happens.

Christmas – The Final Solution

Given December 8, 2014 What Is Christmas

If the question were asked, “What is Christmas?”, there would be numerous answers given depending on who was answering. Children might give an answer about toys, Christians might say something about Jesus, retailers may respond with sales figures, and atheists would say it’s just another holiday. Recently, a different thought came to me; that Christmas is a solution to a problem; the final solution. Let’s look at that.

God created the Heavens and the earth and at the end of the week, He observed His handiwork, “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31). But then Satan came in and messed things up. Eve and Adam allowed evil into God’s perfect world and it began going downhill from there. God’s perfect world and plan was compromised. It got so bad that God had to do something; He came up with another solution. He would destroy the whole world with a great flood and start over. However, God knew a man who remained favorable to Him in the midst of the evil and God was going to use him to start over again in a cleansed world. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8). So Noah and his family were saved on the ark along with many animals. But one of his sons, Ham, was a bad boy and here we go again with sin being brought back into the world, we needed another solution.

So we fast-forward about 2000 years and God and His Son are looking over their creation which was riddled again with evil. Imagine this conversation… “Son, those people really need help, they just cannot make it on their own.” “I’ve given them laws to follow but they keep breaking them, they need something different, something better.” “So Jesus, here’s my solution, my final solution.” I’m going to send you to earth as a baby, to a young woman and man I’ve picked out and you will grow up among those people.” You will live a perfect life, showing them and teaching them how to live on earth and ultimately, how to come live with us in Heaven.” “But here’s the hard part Son, many won’t accept You, they won’t believe You and, in the end, they’ll kill you.” “But by going through all that, those who DO believe and accept You will get to come be with us forever.” “Are you willing to do that for them Son?” And Jesus replies, “Of course Father, I know it will be very hard as a man but not my will but yours be done.”

So, what is Christmas? It’s the occasion on which we celebrate the birth of that perfect baby from Heaven who brought with him… the final solution. Evil will be destroyed again someday but those of us who believe and accept the Baby Jesus will be saved. Are you a part of God’s – Final Solution?

Strange Packaging

Given December 6, 2014

I heard a story of a wealthy man whose son wanted a new car for his college graduation.  On graduation day, the father gave his son a brightly wrapped package and when itGift Package was opened, the boy saw it was a bible.  The son was mad because he didn’t get what he wanted in his package and stormed out never to speak to his father again.  Years later the father died and when the son again saw the box on a shelf, he got the bible out and a key dropped from the pages.  You know what was parked in the garage, covered with dust.  What he wanted was in the box all the time but was strangely packaged.  (See: http://inspire-others.com/graduation-gift)

God does that to us sometimes.  We may be going through a hard time and have asked God for something only to get a package not wrapped like we wanted.  We prayed for what we want, how we want it and when we want it.  But it doesn’t seem to be in our package.  Think of Joseph.  God promised him a “gift” but in his package he found being in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown in prison, and forgotten by two friends in prison.  But he kept the faith and he finally got the promised gift; second in command in Egypt and saving the country and his family from starvation.

And what about Job?  His “gift” came with him losing his health, wealth, and his children. He endured the blame and bad advice from his friends and his wife but did not turn on God. Though He slay me, yet shall I serve Him.” (Job 13:15).  God allowed all this bad packaging to happen to his servant Job but, in the end and because of his faith, his gift was revealed. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. (42:10). All except for his children because he would see them again in Heaven.

So, if you’ve received a gift package from God that is not what you asked for, thank Him and look deeper.  “…how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).  Keep your faith and trust in God through your trial, become stronger, and come out a winner!