The Family Tree

Today I’m sharing another of Pat’s wonderful devotionals. And don’t forget that Pat’s new devotional book, FEAST OF JOY, is available at Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Xulon.

 


The Family Tree

 By Pat Knight

“Then the King will say…
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father;

take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you

since the creation of the world.’”

─Matthew 25:34

During a recent TV documentary, historians speculated about Adolph Hitler’s family history.  Even today investigators are at a loss to identify Hitler’s relatives because he ordered all of his family records destroyed, including birth certificates, photos, and personal letters.  He so obsessively pursued creating the perfect society that under his tutelage genealogists eliminated the records of his biological family and recreated new documents, permitting the dictator to manipulate people into and out of his family tree.

“You can choose your friends, but not your family” is a recognizable quip that applies to most of the human race. An exception to the rule was most recently illustrated when Adolph Hitler appropriated the ability to redesign his own family. His lineage has been so entirely revised that researchers are trying to piece it together now, more than seventy-five years after the dictator’s death. The German Chancellor of the Third Reich had three step-nephews who currently live in total seclusion in the USA, refusing to cooperate with investigators probing for the truth regarding their family history.

With the small amount of progress gained in retrieving Hitler’s original family tree, a psychiatrist has determined that there was a genetic predisposition to mental disorders within his family. As a child, young Adolph was subjected to his father’s abuse. Disillusioned as an adult, Hitler could not tolerate imperfection, especially within his own family. To avoid humiliation, he merely interchanged his family members with those people he perceived to be of superior quality.  

The one, perfect God opens His arms wide and accepts all who request salvation, a birthright into His holy family. Imagine being a member of the family of God! It is blessed reality, a truth taught by Jesus when He walked this earth. God’s family is a composite of all human life beginning with Adam and Eve and descending through the ages. “Then the King will say … ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34).

Because God is sovereign, He could be highly selective of those who will live with Him in heaven for eternity. He could choose among candidates who are physically superior or attractive. However, God reminds us in His Word that exterior appearances are deceptive; He is not impressed with man’s emphasis of achievement or beauty. God looks deep within a person’s heart. Since that is the case, one might further assume God prefers those who possess the most innocent or altruistic thoughts. That is the reasoning man tends to use. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Mankind has always been separated from God because any sin, pondered or committed, is offensive to Him. Our Father is holy and sinless. He sacrificed His only pure Son to redeem a sinful people who are separated from Him by a deep chasm of impurity. We cannot reach God without the bridge of His Son’s shed blood to redeem and unite us. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” (James 2:5).

Since Jesus has redeemed us by willingly sacrificing His sinless, pure life, God has promised we will inherit eternal life; co-heirs in eternity with His own Son, Jesus. If you were notified that you had inherited a mansion where you could live in untold riches for an eternity, wouldn’t you hasten to accept the gift? That is exactly what God is offering each one of us. He refuses no one who genuinely believes and in humility accepts Him as Lord and Savior. Though God is reproached by sin, He is willing to forgive the most heinous acts of indecency. “‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more’” (Isaiah 43:25).

God is merciful, desiring that no one perish. The eternal King lavishes us with His love and welcomes us into heaven as His children. It is unnecessary to bribe or manipulate, but only believe. We are promised an eternity in paradise where the only illumination is supplied by the absolute glory of our holy, heavenly Father. 

Perfection on earth is impossible. Adolph Hitler’s delusions caused world-wide suffering.  Millions of people were annihilated in one man’s quest to create an ideal family and a perfect society. The one perfect Son of God substituted His flawless life to save a world of lost sinners. Even those who endeavor to manipulate their family tree on earth must succumb to the Lord’s rules to access heaven. There perfection shall reign eternal!


Image credit: Sweet Publishing / New Harvest Ministries International at http://www.freebibleimages.org/

Mercy and Grace

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Mercy and Grace

By Pat Knight

We’ve all experienced life’s embarrassing, humiliating moments. It is unnerving how easily and frequently mistakes are made or sins committed. We verbalize or enact something affecting another person that turns out all wrong, not at all the way it was intended. Or, perhaps it was a blatantly insensitive, planned maneuver. Either way, the other party is hurt. When our personal involvement is revealed, we may experience white-hot molten guilt surging through our bodies, as despair simultaneously drenches our emotions. We feel crushed on all sides, reminding us of our desperate need of forgiveness.

We have sinned. Our integrity is threatened. The person we offended is often the first one to whom we apologize. Asking God’s forgiveness is frequently an after-thought. King David demonstrated the proper sequence of events once the prophet Nathan confronted him with his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband. David immediately poured out his heart to God.

“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38:4). David was physically and emotionally ill from the exposure of his flagrant sin and the expression of his humble remorse. David knew he must admit his sins to God, appealing to his Lord’s forgiveness in order to restore peace in his life. “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin” (Psalm 38:18). 

David realized that God loathed his sin but he was also aware of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and boldly asked for both. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1, 2). Then, David requested purity, a cleansed heart, and reinstatement into God’s fellowship. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12).

During David’s lifetime, long before our Savior sacrificed His life for the sins of the world, David offered a perfect animal as a sacrifice, along with his penitent prayer. He was familiar with God’s priorities. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (v. 17). What pleases God more than sacrifice is a humble heart that turns to Him, pleading for mercy.

We may wonder the reason David’s legacy remains as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), in view of his egregious sins of adultery and murder. God is apprised of the heart intent of every person. He viewed David’s deep remorse, humility, request for forgiveness, and submission to the His will. What pleases God is a humility that seeks Him when troubles crush and that penitently plead for mercy and sovereign security. David suffered dire consequences for his sins, but evidence that God forgave him totally is illustrated in God’s future empowerment of David to accomplish His kingdom work.

As soon as the first offense was committed by Adam and Eve, God’s plan was in place to send a Messiah to earth who would save the world from sin. For centuries, the Israelite nation anticipated the promised Savior. God is faithful and always keeps His promises. Jesus was incarnated on earth for one distinct purpose: to redeem sin by ransoming His life for ours. Before He was nailed to the cross, he was physically beaten, spat upon, and humiliated by taunting Roman soldiers. A crown of thorns tore deeply through the skin of his brow. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, His pain escalated for the next six hours until His body could no longer sustain life.

The abuse to which Jesus submitted is inexpressible. If we pale under heavy guilt and shame for one of our sins, envision the incredible burden of emotional torture Christ suffered when He died to atone for the sins of the entire world–past, present, and future. The sinless Savior was willing to die a heinous death to redeem all of the sins for everyone who calls upon His name. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2b). 

The physical and mental anguish Jesus suffered for our sakes is His love gift to each individual. “He is Jesus Christ … Him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). Though God’s very nature is love, He also expresses wrath. Almighty God, holy and pure, hates sin. Animal sacrifice and a repentant heart allowed God’s people in Old Testament times to approach their perfect, sovereign God.  When Jesus hung on the cross, God’s wrath for the sins of the entire world descended upon His Son, extracting from the Perfect Lamb punishment for the sins of the multitudes.

Jesus died for the sinner, including you and me. Our Savior initiated the era of grace when He died and rose again, offering a substitute for our own penalty of death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The grace of God showers us with glory we cannot earn, withholding punishment Jesus bore for us that we do deserve. “Everyone who believes in Him {Jesus Christ} receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).

Jesus, our intercessor, provided the bridge between sinners and a hallowed God by dying for us. When we act inappropriately, exposing selfish desires, we not only hurt other people and our own credibility, but we sin against God. Thankfully, God knows our propensity for wrong-doing and provides for our salvation, permitting us to approach Him and gain forgiveness. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

As sorrowful as we may feel about wrongs we commit, they represent a greater personal affront to our holy God. Showering His extensive love on His creation, God admits, “I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more” (Isaiah 43:25). What a gift! God’s offer isn’t automatic; it requires a reaction from us. “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9b).

Our Savior is the only one capable of eradicating sin from our lives. Christ died for you! Claim and cherish His passionate gift.

Why the Ascension of Christ Matters For Your Life

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity

Why the Ascension of Christ
Matters For Your Life

By Matthew Barrett

Christ’s ascension turns humiliation into exaltation.

Christ ascended into heaven, an event we too often overlook, thinking it has little significance. The last thing we read in Luke’s Gospel, and one of the first things we read in his sequel (the book of Acts), is that Jesus ascended into the sky after appearing to his disciples in his resurrected body. As Luke records, Jesus led his disciples as far as Bethany, lifted up his hands to bless them, and while doing so parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:51). In response, the disciples worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (24:52).

Prior to Jesus’s ascension in front of his disciples, he appeared to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24). Believing that he was the one to redeem Israel, they were perplexed as to why Jesus could suffer defeat on a cross. Their confusion only grew when they heard the tomb was empty. Rebuking these two men for their ignorance, Jesus responded, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Jesus then took them back to the Old Testament Scriptures and showed them how the entire Old Testament pointed forward to this climactic moment in redemptive history. 

Peter makes a similar point in Acts 3:19-21. He tells his listeners to repent, not only so that their sins might be blotted out, but also that God might send the Christ “appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 2:20-21). 

Both of these passages declare that the ascension was anticipated in the Old Testament as the very means by which the crucified Christ transitioned from his state of humiliation to his state of exaltation. The ascension, in other words, is the mechanism by which Christ is fittingly lifted up as the victorious king. As a result of this ascension, Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling and reigning over all (Eph. 1:20’21; Heb. 10:12Mark 16:19Acts 2:33). 

The Puritan Thomas Watson drives this point home in his book A Body of Divinity. While on earth, Jesus lay in a manger, but now he sits on his throne. On earth, men mocked him, but now angels adore him. On earth, his name was reproached, but now God has given him the name above every name (Phil. 2:9). On earth, he was in the form of a servant (John 13:4:5), but now he is dressed in the robe of a prince and kings cast their crowns before his throne. On earth, he was the man of sorrows (Isa. 53), but now he is anointed with the oil of gladness. On earth, he was crucified, but now he is crowned. On earth, he was forsaken by God (Matt. 27:46), but now he sits at God’s right hand. On earth, he had no physical beauty (Isa. 53:2), but now he is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3). Without the ascension, there can be no exaltation of our crucified and risen Lord. Without the ascension, the king returns victorious from battle, but no ancient doors open to receive him into glory. 

Christ’s ascension assures us of our past, present, and future redemption.

Not only is the ascension the indispensable means by which Christ is exalted as Lord and king, but it also demonstrates that his priestly work of redemption is secure. We tend to think of Christ’s priestly work on our behalf as limited to the cross. However, Scripture says his priestly work as mediator continues in heaven (Rom. 8:33:34; 1 Cor. 15Eph. 4; 1 John 2:1). 

Read the rest here.

Jesus, Savior of the World

Sharing today from Decision Magazine

Jesus, Savior of the World

By Charles H. Spurgeon

Our thoughts turn to the first use of the name, when the Child who was yet to be born was named Jesus. The person to whom that name was first revealed was Joseph: a carpenter, a humble man, a working man, unknown and undistinguished except by the justice of his character.

It is not, therefore, a title to be monopolized by princes, sages, priests, warriors or men of wealth. It is a name to be made a household word among common people! He is the people’s Christ.

The name of Jesus was sweet from the start because of the words that accompanied it, for they were meant to remove perplexity from Joseph’s mind: “Fear not.” Truly, no name can banish fear like the name of Jesus! It is the beginning of hope and the end of despair! Let the sinner hear of the Savior, and he forgets to die! He hopes to live! He rises out of the deadly lethargy of his hopelessness and, looking upward, he sees a reconciled God and no longer fears.

At the time when the name was given, His full person had not been seen by mortal eyes, for He lay as yet concealed. But soon He came forth, having been born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. A matchless man, He bears our nature but not our corruption! He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but in His flesh there is no sin! This Holy One is the Son of God, and yet He is the Son of man!

The name of Jesus is a name divinely ordered and expounded. According to the text, the angel brought a message from the Lord and said, “You shall call His name Jesus.” It is a name that—like He who bears it—has come down from Heaven. Our Lord has other names of office and relationship, but this is His own personal name.

And it is the Father who has thus named Him.

The name is the highest, brightest and noblest of names. It is the glory of our Lord to be a Savior. To the best that was ever born of woman, God has given the best name that any son of man could bear. Jesus is the most appropriate name that our Lord could receive.

The Father knew Him perfectly, and He named Him Jesus. We may be sure, then, that our Lord is, most of all, a Savior, and He is best described by that term. God, the Father, who knows Him best, sees this to be His grand characteristic: that He is a Savior and is therefore best represented by the name Jesus.

Remember My Birthday?

Remember My Birthday?

As you well know, we are getting closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor and I think that this year the celebration will be repeated. During this time there are many people shopping for gifts, there are many radio announcements, TV commercials, and in every part of the world everyone is talking that my birthday is getting closer and closer.

It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me. As you know, the celebration of my birthday began many years ago. At first people seemed to understand and be thankful of all that I did for them, but in these times, no one seems to know the reason for the celebration. Family and friends get together and have a lot of fun, but they don’t know the meaning of the celebration.

I remember that last year there was a great feast in my honor. The dinner table was full of delicious foods, pastries, fruits, assorted nuts and chocolates. The decorations were exquisite and there were many, many beautifully wrapped gifts. But, do you want to know something? I wasn’t invited. I was the guest of honor and they didn’t remember to send me an invitation. The party was for me, but when that great day came, I was left outside, they closed the door in my face… and I wanted to be with them and share their table. In truth, that didn’t surprise me because in the last few years all close their doors to me.

Since I was not invited, I decided to enter the party without making any noise. I went in and stood in a corner. They were all drinking; there were some who were drunk and telling jokes and laughing at everything. They were having a great time. To top it all, this big fat man all dressed in red wearing a long white beard entered the room yelling Ho-Ho-Ho! He seemed drunk. He sat on the sofa and all the children ran to him, saying: “Santa Claus, Santa Claus”… as if the party were in his honor!

At 12 midnight all the people began to hug each other; I extended my arms waiting for someone to hug me and …. do you know… no one hugged me. Suddenly they all began to share gifts. They opened them one by one with great expectation. When all had been opened, I looked to see if, maybe, there was one for me. What would you feel if on your birthday everybody shared gifts and you did not get one? I then understood that I was unwanted at that party and quietly left.

Every year it gets worse. People only remember to eat and drink, the gifts, the parties and nobody remembers me. I would like this Christmas that you allow me to enter into your life. I would like that you recognize the fact that almost two thousand years ago I came to this world to give my life for you, on the cross, to save you. Today, I only want that you believe this with all your heart.

I want to share something with you. As many didn’t invite me to their party, I will have my own celebration, a grandiose party that no one has ever imagined, a spectacular party. I’m still making the final arrangements. Today I am sending out many invitations and there is an invitation for you. I want to know if you wish to attend and I will make a reservation for you and write your name with golden letters in my great guest book. Only those on the guest list will be invited to the party. Those who don’t answer the invitation will be left outside. Do you know how you can answer this invitation? It is by extending it to others whom you care for … I’ll be waiting for all of you to attend my party this year…

See you soon … I love you! 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. ─Revelation 3:20

─Author Unknown

Nix Xmas

Nix Xmas

By Pat Knight

It is nearly time to celebrate the holy day of Christmas. Or is it written Xmas? The cross, symbolic of Christ and His resurrection and the first letter of the word Christos or Christ, were expressed with an X in the Greek alphabet. Though some Greek symbols are retained in formal worship services today, the letter X no longer represents Christ Jesus exclusively.

According to tradition, the word Xmas has been in use for several centuries to signify Christmas. It is understandable that the letter representing Christ (X) and the shortened version of celebration (mas) were combined to form Xmas. While those familiar with Greek may fully recognize the reverence attached to Xmas, for most of the populace Xmas is merely a shortened version of Christmas. In our contemporary culture X is used to represent an unknown quantity, a flexible and functional symbol of the English alphabet that is used to emphasize or to cross out writings.

Christmas is a holy day proclaiming the incarnation of the Son of God on earth, the same Deity present with the heavenly Father at the creation of the world and throughout history. Apart from the Greek origin, if we remove Christ from Christmas, Xmas is the result, a generic, unadorned word. In our zeal to shorten every word possible, we have dishonored Christ’s birthday.

The original Christmas was a splendid event. On a still night outside the hills of Bethlehem, shepherds were huddled in the sheepfold, cloaks wrapped tightly against the cold, when suddenly thousands of tiny lights pierced the ebony sky. At that moment an angel emerged with the glory of the Lord shining in his presence. What a spectacular, paralyzing event!

The angel announced, “‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-11). Before the shepherds could focus, “suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests’” (vv. 13- 14). What a stunning, stupefying event for the shepherds, whose occasional excitement involved confronting a wild animal predator. The shepherds had been singled out of all creation to receive the announcement of the Savior’s birth. When the angels left, the shepherds conferred, “‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’” (v. 15).

What pure excitement filled the hearts of the shepherds; thrilling, unprecedented heavenly exhilaration, an adrenaline rush felt by those in the presence of the angels! Although prophecy of the advent of the Messiah had been verbally communicated for centuries, no one was apprised of the time or location of his appearance. A baby King born in an animal shelter seemed incomprehensible. Yet, the angels were very convincing, typically appearing on earth only at extremely important times.

The shepherds expectantly walked to Bethlehem. They were not disappointed. “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (vv.16-18, 20).

Because they believed the angels’ message and acted on their information, the shepherds were granted exclusive rights to participate in the hallowed excitement at Jesus’ birth. The day was eventually named Christmas to represent Jesus’ incarnation, commencing His thirty-three year journey on earth, with the cross His ultimate goal.

Has our world advanced intellectually in two thousand years? The momentous date of Christ’s birth is now dubbed Xmas and the majority of people celebrate by honoring an impersonal, rotund Santa Claus clad in a fuzzy red suit. Twinkle lights and ornaments adorn a fir tree with wrapped presents beneath. For many, the story of Christ’s birth remains just another fairy tale spelled Xmas; an excuse for exchanging gifts.

Devoted, loving children of God celebrate the fullness of Christ’s birth: love come to earth, promises of a Messiah kept, and the beginning of the road to Calvary, where Jesus was cruelly sacrificed for the accumulation of our sins.

I have often wondered if there is economy of motion in writing Xmas as opposed to Christmas. Otherwise, if time value weren’t involved, why would we insist upon shortening the word Christmas? As I experimented writing the two words, I expended no less motion writing an X. By substituting an X for Christ’s name, we have depersonalized Christmas, like so many secular ornaments replacing the true characters of the nativity.

The word Christmas is not found in the Bible, but it is the name that has been passed down through the ages to commemorate the birth of Christ. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Though traditions change, though we may substitute Christ’s name with an X, Christ our Lord has remained immutable throughout the ages.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10). At Christmastime and always, let us worship Jesus with the glory and majesty due His name. 

There is no greater love or grace available than for those who belong to Christ Jesus our Lord. As heirs with Him in God’s kingdom, let us assess our actions to magnify or to discredit His name. Join me this Christmas in eliminating the “X factor.” Our Messiah will be pleased. Join with the angels in proclaiming Christ as Lord. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Outrageous Grace

Outrageous Grace

By Lee Strobel

“This is embarrassing,” my friend said to me over the phone.

“That’s okay,” I assured him. “Go ahead. You can tell me.”

He sighed. “Well, we found out our little girl shoplifted a book from the church bookstore. We were really surprised because she’s a good kid. Anyway, I was wondering whether you would help us out with something.”

Frankly, I was relieved the news wasn’t more serious. “Sure,” I said. “What can I do?”

“We’d like you to represent the church so she can come in and apologize,” he replied. “Maybe you could figure out some sort of restitution. We want to use this as a teaching moment.”

I agreed to help, but I have to admit I had an even bigger lesson in mind.

The next day, the parents and their eight-year-old daughter walked hesitantly into my office and sat down. The girl was so small, she was almost swallowed up by the chair. Her eyes were downcast; her mood was somber.

After I exchanged some pleasantries with her parents, I sat down on the edge of my desk so I was facing the girl. As gently as I could, I said to her, “Tell me what happened.”

She hesitated, her lower lip quivering. “Well,” she said as she started to sniffle, “I was in the bookstore after a service and I saw a book that I really wanted, but I didn’t have any money.” Now tears pooled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. I handed her a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes before continuing.

“So I put the book under my coat and took it,” she blurted out, almost as if she wanted to expel the words as fast as she could so they wouldn’t linger. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did it. And I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. Honest.”

She was so contrite that it broke my heart. “I’m glad you’re willing to admit what you did and say you’re sorry,” I told her. “That’s very brave, and it’s the right thing to do.”

She nodded slightly.

“But,” I continued, “what do you think an appropriate punishment would be?”

She shrugged her shoulders. I knew from her parents that she had already thrown out the book to hide the evidence. I paused for a moment, then said, “I understand the book cost five dollars. I think it would be fair if you paid the bookstore five dollars, plus three times that amount, which would make the total twenty dollars. Do you think that would be fair?”

“Yes,” she murmured, though I could see fear — almost panic — in her eyes. Her mind was whirring. Where was she going to come up with twenty dollars? That’s a mountain of money for a little kid. She didn’t have the five dollars to buy the book in the first place, and suddenly her debt had spiraled completely out of sight.

At that moment, I got up and walked behind my desk. Sitting down, I pulled open the top drawer. The little girl’s eyes narrowed. She couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I pulled out my checkbook, picked up a pen, and wrote a check from my personal account for the full amount that she owed. I tore off the check and held it in my hand. Her mouth dropped open.

“I know there’s no way you can pay the penalty that you deserve,” I told her. “So I’m going to pay it for you. Do you know why I’d do that?”

Bewildered, she shook her head.

“Because I love you,” I told her. “Because I care about you. Because you’re important to me. And please remember this: that’s how Jesus feels about you too. Except even more.”

With that, I handed her the check, which she grabbed and clutched to her heart. She simply blossomed with a look of absolute relief and joy and wonder. She was almost giddy with gratitude. The same little girl who had slinked into the office under the weight of shame now left lighthearted and skipping.

I don’t know how God ultimately used that teaching moment in her life. But I do know this: once a person, even at a young age, experiences a taste of the kind of grace offered by Christ, it leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Who could resist being attracted by the forgiveness and unmerited favor extended by Jesus?

This is one of the greatest dimensions of the unexpected adventure. The message we convey isn’t based on condemnation or shame. We’re not offering people a life sentence of hard labor to try to somehow make themselves worthy of heaven. Instead, we have the privilege of telling people how they can find complete forgiveness as a free gift that was purchased when Jesus died as our substitute to pay for all of our wrongdoing — past, present, and future.

“Grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more,” writes Philip Yancey in his classic book What’s So Amazing About Grace? “And grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less. . . . Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Wow! When I try to let that sink in, I’m just as overcome with gratitude as that little girl. At the same time I feel a renewed desire to let others know about this incredible message of redemption and reconciliation. After all, with good news like that, how could we possibly keep it to ourselves?


From Investigating Faith by Lee Strobel

My Lord is the Lifter of My Head 

My Lord is the Lifter
of My Head 

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the one who lifts my head.

─Psalm 3:3

For many years summer monsoon season has been a struggle for me. The combination of living at high altitude, plus the constantly fluctuating barometric pressure, used to keep me homebound and in bed. The way my body used to react to my migraines was to shut down, meaning that I slept most of the time. That was my before. As I write this, I still have migraines but the accompanying head pain is gone. Now I only know I have a migraine when my vision gets blurry and/or I have lots of nausea. This is my after.

The difference between before and after is that I have been undergoing special therapeutic treatments since January of this year. I am calling 2019 my year of healing because I truly believe that the Lord led me to this treatment because many people had been praying for me for many years.

While I was burdened with these daily migraines, I found it amazing that every time I went to sleep with a migraine I awoke feeling very hopeful that my migraine would be gone. And I did this over and over again, only to be surprised when I woke up to the same migraine I went to sleep with.

Why do I think this is amazing? Because instead of being disappointed when I awoke to the same pain time after time, I felt hopeful. I admit to a bit of discouragement, but I believe that God knows what I feel deep in my heart and soul, and since He is the “lifter of my head,” I believe He granted me the ability to praise Him with a joyful heart no matter how I was feeling.

I used to struggle with the why of my situation, wondering if it would ever end and why it had gone on for so long. Now there is a huge sense of peace within me because I know without a doubt that my Lord ─ my “shield” ─ was and is always with me to soothe and comfort me when I cry out to Him in pain. Even before I started the treatments that have eliminated my migraine pain, the frustration that at times consumed me is gone and has been replaced with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Beloved, have you ever been in a situation when you have questioned why God has allowed it in your life? Do you wonder if it will ever end? Are you so mired in despair that you find you can’t even talk to God about it? 

In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we should, 

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us 

with groanings too deep for words. 

─Romans 8:26

Now what does the Spirit ask for when he intercedes for us? There are three ways the text points to an answer for this question: 1) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know we should ask for. Verse 26: “We do not know how to pray for what we ought.” 2) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know to ask for because of our weakness. Verse 26: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 3) It says the Spirit asks for things that are in accord with the will of God. Verse 27b: “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”¹

Although my migraine head pain is gone, I am still living with the chronic pain and other symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The treatments are also relieving most of that pain, and now my overwhelming symptom is unrelenting fatigue that nothing helps, but I am anticipating a release from that too as I continue these treatments.

God knows everything about us, even our doubts, frustrations and anxieties. He is our ultimate Healer ─ physically, emotionally and mentally. He longs to hold us close to His heart and soothe our tears of frustration, disappointment and grief. Allow Him to do so! Let Him into your heart and share your deepest feelings with Him, because He is always available to listen to you and comfort you.

I continually hold on to this hope: that one day all of my pain and exhaustion will be gone and I will no longer have any tears because of the incredible joy and happiness of being in heaven with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Only by abiding in Him can any kind of true joy and contentment be found.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit

to fill our hearts with his love. 

─Romans 5:4-5

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,

the Creator of the ends of the earth,

neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might

He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

and the young men shall utterly fall,

but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
─Isaiah 40:28-31


¹John Piper, Desiring God

At Christ’s Table

matt8-11-amp

At Christ’s Table

Adapted from Till He Come by Charles Spurgeon

 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened to you;

but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings,
that when His glory is revealed,
you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

If you are reproached for the name of Christ,
blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer,
or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian,
let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter,

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God;
and if it begins with us first,
what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 

Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God
commit their souls to Him in doing good,
as to a faithful Creator.

—1 Peter 4:12-19

At the Last Supper, Christ brought all His disciples as table-companions, a prophecy that applies to all of His people forever. In heaven, there cannot be less of a privilege than on earth. It cannot be that believers will be degraded from what they have been below. The disciples were companions at Christ’s table here below, and they will still be table-companions in heaven above. Blessed is he that will eat bread in the kingdom of God. “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” and the Lord Jesus will be at the head of the table (Matt. 8:11).

What will His table of joy be like? What will be His celebration when His reward is seated around Him and His triumph is all achieved? Whatever it is, you will share in it. For you poor, working woman, what a change to sit among princes and near to your Lord Jesus, with all your hard work and poverty ended forever. And you, sad child of suffering, will not have pain there, and you will be forever with the Lord. The joy of Christ will be your joy forever and ever! In the anticipation of the joy that will be yours, forget your current troubles. Rise above today’s difficulties, and if you cannot rejoice because of the present, rejoice for the future that will soon be yours.

Here is the way of salvation: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. To believe in Him is to trust Him; it is leaning on Him, resting on Him. Rest your whole weight on Christ in a spiritual sense. You have a load of sin; lean on Him, sin and all. You are unworthy, weak, and perhaps miserable. Cast on Him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery and all. Take Him to be all in all to you, and when you have trusted Him, you will have become His follower. Go on by humility to be His disciple, by obedience to be His servant, by love to be His friend, and by communion to be His table-companion.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Sharing today from GotQuestions?

Question: “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?”

Answer: Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend, but it is true nonetheless. The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. No one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to heaven for several reasons. Jesus was “chosen by God” to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus is the only One to have come down from heaven and returned there (John 3:13). He is the only person to have lived a perfect human life (Hebrews 4:15). He is the only sacrifice for sin (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). He alone fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He is the only man to have conquered death forever (Hebrews 2:14–15). He is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only man whom God has “exalted . . . to the highest place” (Philippians 2:9).

Read the rest here.