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

Looking For Jesus

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

LOOKING FOR JESUS

How to find Christ in the Old Testament

By Liz Wann

When I was a kid, I looked for Waldo. That guy with the red hat, red-striped shirt, and hipster looking glasses. He was elusive, but I was Sherlock. I would scan the overcrowded picture from top to bottom, left to right, and look for anything that was red. Some pages in the Where’s Waldo? books were easy, but some were difficult. Yet every time I would come back after giving up, I’d find his eyes, with those large black glasses, staring back at me. Even when I couldn’t find him, he was always there and (creepy enough) he was always staring right at me.

In the same way that Waldo is not likely to be discovered without effort and focus, so too we must search for Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Like Where’s Waldo?, there are techniques and strategies that can help us see Christ in the Old Testament. There are clues left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We tend to think of Jesus only showing up in the New Testament. But he is there, like Waldo, in the Old as well.

The unfolding plan

The major story of the Old Testament is about God choosing and setting aside a people for himself (the Israelites) and continually preserving them. The story is told through a variety of literary genres, such as sweeping historical narratives, prophecies, poetry, and proverbs. In the New Testament, the focus narrows to historical accounts of Jesus’s life and the lives of his first followers, including their letters and reflections on who Jesus is and what that means.

Many people claim that the Old and New Testaments differ greatly in their depiction of God. They think of God as full of love and mercy in the New Testament, and full of wrath, anger, and punishment in the Old. But it’s not that clear cut. God is a God of wrath and mercy throughout the entire Bible, with the climax of his wrath and mercy being poured out at the cross. The common thread running through both sections of the Bible is God’s plan to save humanity from sin’s degradation. The stories, prophecies, and people in the Old Testament point us to a coming Savior who will cleanse us of our sins—Jesus, a better Adam, a better Moses, and a better David. If the New Testament is the part of the Bible where all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, then the Old Testament is getting us ready for his coming.

Read the rest here.

The Hope of the Empty Tomb

Christ’s Resurrection: Our Hope

by Franklin Graham

On the Saturday after Jesus was crucified, His followers must have felt utterly defeated. Meanwhile, the Pharisees felt they had silenced a critic, the Romans felt they had quashed a rebellion, and the governor had washed his hands of the whole affair.

Then Sunday morning dawned, the gravestone was rolled away, and history was turned inside out. The news—Jesus is alive!—was almost too good to be true. Yet it was undeniably true. So true that His disciples dedicated the rest of their lives to telling the whole world the Good News about Jesus Christ.

On the cross, He died for our sins.

In the tomb, He defeated death.

Nowhere else in this sin-sick world can we find such everlasting hope.

Modern medicine is wonderful—almost miraculous sometimes—but doctors will never defeat death. Now, some of us may live to be a hundred or more. … Every day we have on this earth is a gift from God, but ultimately everyone has to be prepared to face death and judgment. Through the triumph of the cross and resurrection, Jesus has already dealt with both of those.

“When you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13).

Where is your HOPE?

Prayer: Lord, this week, we remember that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we no longer have to fear death and the grave. Help us to clearly tell others how they, too, can come to You through Jesus’ sacrifice. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scripture quotation is taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. From Franklin Graham: “Decision” magazine, April 2011, ©2011 BGEA.

[From “Decision” magazine e-devotional]

The Power of the Cross

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But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
—Isaiah 53:5

Have you ever wondered why the day Jesus Christ died such a horrible death is called GOOD Friday? Doesn’t it seem as if it should be the blackest day in history? What can possibly be GOOD about it?

Beloved, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to undergo the horrendous, torturous beatings and then be put to death so that we might live with Him for eternity! This is why it is commemorated as a GOOD day. We are all born as sinners and there is no way we can get to heaven apart from the saving grace and mercy of Jesus Christ’s death on that cross at Calvary. That one death paid the price for us to have the opportunity to be in heaven with Him when we die.

Yes, we should mourn the death of Jesus Christ because He endured so much on our behalf. But even more, we should celebrate this day as the beginning of mankind’s chance to share in the intimate fellowship with Jesus forever!

Please enjoy “Mighty is the Power of the Cross” by  Chris Tomlin. Remember and be joyful that Jesus paid it all!

Mighty, awesome, wonderful
Is the holy cross
Where the Lamb laid down His life

To lift us from the fall
Mighty is the power of the cross

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

At Christ’s Table

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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.

Why Did Jesus Want To Eat That Last Supper?

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Why Did Jesus Want to Eat That Last Supper

April 15, 2019
By 
Suzy Silk

Almost every Sunday, churches across America remember Jesus’s “Last Supper” as they take communion together. Eating bread or wafers and drinking grape juice or wine, they recount Jesus’s words: “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. … This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

But would it surprise you to learn that this wasn’t an ordinary dinner Jesus was having with his disciples, and this wasn’t normal bread he broke? When I first learned that Jesus’s last meal took place during a Passover dinner, and that the bread he broke was unleavened bread (matzah), I was surprised and thrilled. Jesus’s words and actions on that night suddenly became so much clearer to me.

How Jesus used Passover

Passover was the first holiday ever given by God to the Jewish people. Several times, the Lord gave the Israelites specific instructions on how to commemorate their miraculous exodus from Egypt—by recounting the Exodus and Passover story over a shared meal of unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, and roasted lamb on the 14th day of the month of Aviv. This was to be a lasting ordinance for all future generations (see Exodus 12:1-18Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

As a righteous Jewish man, Jesus grew up celebrating Passover every year in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41); and so, as to be expected, in the days leading up to his arrest, Jesus again obediently celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples on the 14th day of Aviv (see Matthew 26:17-19; John 13:1). During that evening, Jesus used the various items on the Passover table as prophetic signs of what he was about to do in the following 24 hours, explaining his mission and purpose to his disciples.

The questions I asked when I first learned all of this were: Why this bread? Why that particular cup? Why during that particular ceremonial moment, when he dipped his bread into the bitter herbs? And although there are many other ways in which the Passover meal helps us understand Jesus’s many words that night, let’s begin with the four required items on the Passover table: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine, and a roasted lamb.

The Unleavened Bread (Matzah)

During Passover, God commanded the Israelites to eat only unleavened bread (i.e., bread without yeast) for seven days. The point was to have an annual reminder of how they left Egypt in a hurry. For this reason, later generations nicknamed matzah both “the bread of affliction,” as a reminder of their slavery, and “the bread of freedom,” as a reminder of their freedom after leaving Egypt in haste (see Deuteronomy 16:3). This bread was also sacred/holy bread, since yeast was often seen as a symbol of sin in the Old Testament and was therefore not in the bread regularly offered in the Temple. Because matzah has no yeast, it also doesn’t rise, and so must be pierced all over to prevent it from burning–though striped burn marks are often inevitable.

This pierced, striped, and holy bread was a perfect symbol for what would be done to Jesus. The prophet Isaiah foretells that the Messiah, though righteous and blameless (i.e., without sin), would be “pierced for our transgressions” and that “by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus held up the pierced, striped, yeast-less bread on the Passover table—which symbolized affliction and freedom at the same time—and compared it to his body. Then, he broke it and divided it among his disciples. Soon, Jesus would be pierced, striped, and “broken.” He would give himself up to affliction, explaining to his disciples that his body was to be “given for [them]” (Luke 22:19)—in other words, for their freedom. 

Read the rest here.

Key Terms of Salvation in the Bible

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Key Terms of Salvation
in the Bible

The more one understands the key terms the apostle Paul chose to explain the gospel, the deeper one’s experience will be with the gospel. Paul uses these terms throughout the book of Romans to describe the free gift of salvation and eternal transformation that is available to all who will believe and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin.

Atonement (Romans 3:25)

“The satisfaction of God’s holy wrath against sin.” The consequence of our sin is the righteous judgment that God will exercise on sinners. By dying in our place and taking our sins on himself, Jesus makes “atonement” for our sin: he satisfies God’s righteous anger against all who believe.

Faith (Romans 1:17)

Meaning “belief” or “trust,” faith is the means by which sinful people come into right standing with God. It is a complete and active trust in Jesus alone for salvation.

Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Literally means “good news” and is the word Paul uses to refer to the message of forgiveness, eternal life and the lordship of Christ.

Grace (Romans 6:14)

“The unmerited favor of God.” This refers to God’s inexplicable and unwarranted giving of good things (especially salvation) to those who could never earn it. There is power for holy living in the grace of God.

Read the rest here.