Compared to God

God’s law was given so that all people Florida Hybiscus 2 8 x 10could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. Romans 5:20  (NLT)

Carli’s sides hurt and her head felt as if she’d been bludgeoned the night before. Of, course, she couldn’t remember the night before. She’d passed out after her tenth drink. Someone must have brought her home but she couldn’t remember who. She swung her legs off the bed. Her clothes were messed up and not just from sleeping in them.

She began to remember. She didn’t want to but…well…there it was. She’d had an abortion in the back room of that place yesterday afternoon. She’d gotten rid of Digger’s kid. Her insides felt like they were on fire. Maybe she shouldn’t have gone out last night but she’d wanted to forget. “I guess that didn’t work.”

Carli walked to the shower. She felt dirty, useless and unredeemable. Many people keep on sinning because they feel that there’s no way out for them. They feel as if only good people deserve the price of salvation. God couldn’t possible love her that much…she wasn’t worth it. They dull the pain by more booze, more drugs, more sex, more anything…anything to blot out the dastardly thing they’ve done and yet…Jesus would have still gone to the cross if they’d been the only person left on planet earth. He loves them with a love that has no conditions…none at all.

Some people see themselves as better than Carli because they don’t do drugs, or booze, and didn’t kill anyone. However, the Bible says that there are no perfect people. In God’s eyes the person who cheats on their taxes or thinks they’re better than someone else needs a Savior just the same as the Carli’s in this world. We all need God’s Grace of forgiveness. It is available for the asking.

Lord Jesus, help me see myself from Your perspective and then help me know You love me no matter what. Keep Satan, the accuser, away from me so that I can forgive myself. Help me know that You paid the price and that whenever I mess up, You will be there to heap forgiveness on my head. All I need do is ask and receive. Amen

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Substitutionary Penance

Camelia at Christ Church CemetaryThe Law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans 8:3  (NLT)

Nugget polished his bike and then went inside. He trimmed his beard, showered, and put on clean leathers for the long ride to the temple. He took his yarmulke with him, stuffed it into the trunk of his bike and then stomped on the starter. He’d better not be late or the sacrifice would do no good.

Three miles down the road, his bike died. Nugget coasted to the side of the road, engaged his brakes and stepped off onto the rough gravel of the shoulder. He wanted to kick the machine that was supposed to get him to temple on time but…he’d paid too much for it.

A couple of minutes later, a familiar face pulled in behind him. The Rev – great.

Hi Rev. How’s it going?” Nugget walked back toward his friend, stuck out his hand and shook the newcomer’s with vigor.

“Great, Nugget. Need a hand?”

“Yeah. I’m on my way to temple…need to seek God’s forgiveness before sunset or…”

The Rev shook his head. “Nugget I’ve told you many times that you can’t, by yourself, pay for your sins. There’s nothing you can do that hasn’t already been done for you.”

“But…according to the book…”

“What book is that? The one you keep reading to make sure you’re doing everything right? The rule book, you’ve called it. Well, God’s word, the Bible, says that the price for your sins has already been paid. You owe nothing. It’s a free gift.”

“Yes but…”

“I know. Seems too easy, doesn’t it? We humans keep trying to complicate things when Jesus simply wants us to acknowledge that He’s already done it. All we have to do is thank Him for it.

Jesus is the Lamb of God, the only perfect sacrifice for all the sins of mankind. It’s through our belief in Him and what He’s done, that we’re saved from the price of our sins and the anger of a heavenly Father. All we need do is accept the gift, thank Him, and sin no more.

Father God, You are the perfect sacrifice. Why do we keep trying to make it more complicated than it is? Help me to understand, accept, and appreciate all that You’ve done. Amen

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Grace Rules

084…so just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord  Romans 5:21  (NLT)

Candy sat on the bottom step of the spiral staircase. She poured some wax onto a clean cloth and then began to rub. She looked toward the top. It was a long way up and these stairs had to shine. Madam said so.

Candy was working off some community service to pay for a plethora of parking tickets that she’d simply stuffed into her glove compartment hoping they’d be forgotten. They weren’t. So now she had to work her way to the top of this staircase before lunch.

“Candy, make sure there are no streaks.” That woman was so particular.

“Yes, Ma’m.” Candy polished the same spot again and again. Somehow the streaks just appeared.

Candy heard the clock from the front entryway chime ten o’clock. She’d never make it in time. She rubbed harder. She’d only reached the third stair and the spindles along the railing weren’t even started yet. What was she going to do?

Candy is like so many of us. She was working her way to the top of a staircase but we try to work our way up a ladder of sorts too. We see God’s laws from the bottom looking up, as a ladder, if you will. We climb two rungs and then slip. We have to start all over again. Some people don’t even try because the ladder to God seems impossible. They feel defeated in the process.

Jesus Christ will take you in His arms and carry you all the way to God if you will let Him. Then once we are in God’s presence, we are free to obey all His laws – not because we have to but because we want to – and through God’s power, not our own. We may still stumble but now Christ’s arms catch us and carry us forward again. Do you belong to Him? Are you addressing your spiritual ineptitude. Rely on Christ to carry you?

Lord, Thank You for carrying me to the Father. Thank You for loving me so much that it is with Your power I obey His laws. Catch me when I fall, Lord Jesus, and help me do the Father’s will every day that I am alive on this earth. Amen

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The Fairness of God

Poppy 8 x 10For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,  Romans 3:25  (NLT)

Pardon, deliverance, freedom. Words that Jase longed to hear but knew he would not. He walked around the prison yard, trying to keep away from the men brandishing large tattoos and shaved heads. He was black and these men hated blacks. “Why didn’t I listen to my grandmother?” He sighed. Leaning against the fence, he took a last drag on his cigarette and then stomped it out on the ground.

“Keep your hands off the fence.” A guard walked toward him. “You know the rules.”

“Yah, I know the rules.” Jase walked away, placing his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

The prison guard kept following him. “Hey, wait. I have something to tell you.”

He stopped without turning around.  “What?”  It was almost an effort to talk.

“They found the guy who committed that murder you were convicted of. I heard it in the news this morning. I expect you’ll be hearing from your lawyer.”  The guard smiled as Jase turned surprised eyes on him.

Jase blinked. He knew he’d committed the crime. He knew he was guilty. “Thanks Grady.” He continued walking. “Mistake…it’s gotta be.”

Just after lunch, Jase received a visitor. His lawyer. The guard escorted him to the secure meeting room. Jase sat as soon as the guard left and looked at the man sitting across the table from him. “What’s this I hear about someone being picked up for murder…the one I’m rotting in here for?”

“That’s right Jase. The DA has asked the judge to commute your sentence. It’ll take a few weeks but you’ll be out before summer. Great news, huh?”

“Yeah, great.’ Jase thanked the man who’d fought for him over the last ten years. “Keep me posted, okay.”

He walked toward his cell in front of the guard and sat on the hard bunk as the door clanged shut. “How was this possible? He was guilty. Oh yeah, he’d said he didn’t do it but he knew. In fact, he’d told God the other morning that he was sorry. But now…

Jase was guilty just as you and I are guilty of rebelling against God and cutting ourselves off from His life-giving power. However, God declared Christ’s death on the cross an appropriate penalty for our sin. Someone else would pay for the sin that Jase committed and someone else paid for your sin – Jesus Christ.

Father thank You for loving me so much that You provided restitution for my sin. Help me be worthy of Your sacrifice and help me live according to Your standards from now on. Amen

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Eternal Life is a Free Gift

For the wages of sin is death, but the free 103gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23  (NLT)

Checker walked into the clubhouse ahead of three others. They were members of a motorcycle gang that decided years ago to try to do good instead of drugs. There was a chart on the wall, behind the bar that used to serve liquor but now provided a place for the men to eat and to visit with one another after a full day.

“Hey, Mik, scratch off another half hour for me. I need only do another couple of hours at the shelter and my quota for this week will be paid up. Give me a coke, will ya?” He sat on the one empty stool at the bar.

The three men sitting beside him eating some fries and a burger looked toward Checker. This man used to walk around with the biggest chip of anyone on his shoulder. He’d certainly changed but…he seemed obsessed with working…earning points.

“Chester, you know, you can’t pay for it… that salvation the Bible talks about.” The closest man, Jess, leaned tattooed arms on the bar, waiting for the big man to reply.

“He died for my sins, did he not? Now it’s my turn. I want to be good enough so I can walk into that church down the street. I want to have that salvation too.”

“We already went to that church. The pastor explained that there was nothing we could do to earn our salvation. It’s a free gift. All you have to do is ask God into your heart. It’s simple.”

“Nobody gives us anything for free…with no strings.” Checker leaned his body sideways getting a better look at the man who’d spoken.

“God does. He loves us so much that… it’s called a gift. All we have to do is accept it.” Jess took a swig from the bottle of Sprite in his hand.

“But…”

“No buts Checker. Just ask God to forgive you and He will.”

Jess was right. There’s nothing we can do to earn the gift of Salvation. It’s a free gift. We could work our fingers to the bone and it wouldn’t be enough. How do you repay someone who died in your place? Even if it was possible, God doesn’t expect it. He has standards that we must follow and repercussions if we don’t but then He also provided the payment for our disobedience. A gift. Accept it.

Father, I understand that no matter how many good things I do, it won’t pay for the gift of Salvation. It’s free. However, as Jesus resides in my heart, the natural out-pouring of His love to others causes me to want to good things for people. Not to earn points but to show others who You are. Thank You, Lord, for placing that kind of love in my heart. Amen

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Made Right by Faith

We are made right with God by placing our faith in need to print 2Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:22-24   (NLT)

Jessie watched Trask’s face through the bars. The judge had sentenced him to death. Yet he smiled. He seemed at peace. “Ain’t you scared?” She scratched the track marks on her arm with fingers that trembled. “You wanted me to go with you. I’d be in there with you if I’d gone.

“I know. I’m sorry Jessie. I never meant to hurt you. Hey, you think you should oughtta go see somebody, you know about your habit.”

“Leave me be Trask. I don’t need that stuff. I’m cool.”  She sniffed and then rubbed her hands together as if they ached.

“Jessie, I won’t be there for you no more. I need to know you’re gonna be okay. I made my peace with God the other day. I know what’s on the other side of the gas chamber. The judge declared me guilty but God has pardoned me and I will stand in front of the Big Guy forgiven. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?” Trask smiled, a rare occurrence in Jessie’s experience.

“I don’t need that God stuff. I’m not like you. I don’t hurt nobody else. I just do my own thing.”

“The preacher man showed me a verse in the Bible…you know…that’s God’s words…I never knew that before. Anyway…he showed me that we are all the same…sinners. It don’t matter whether we gunned someone down like I did or do drugs like you do.”

Trask was right. Everyone is a sinner according to the Bible. In God’s eyes there is no small sin or big sin. We who wear our pride on our sleeve are just as guilty in God’s eyes as the man who picks up a gun and blows someone away. We are all in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ is it – the only perfect Lamb of God who could pay for the sin of mankind.

Lord, I do understand that I’m a sinner and in need of a Savior. Thank You for walking to the cross for me. Please take up residence in my heart so that I will have someone to help me meet God’s standards from now on. Amen

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Made Right Aside From Law

IMG_3647But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. Romans 3:21   (NLT)

Jessie cleared her throat. Her hand shook and her head felt as if a twenty piece brass band was leading a march into the pit of hell. Why? Why had she gone there? If only I’d stayed home.

The phone call was the problem. Maybe she’d get rid of the phone. “Oh, my head hurts so bad.” She spoke in little more than a whisper, a whisper though that seemed as loud as the trumpets in that brass band. “It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I always stumble right back into my old habits.”

Jessie picked up the offending instrument and dialed her mentor, the person from AA who’d helped her clean her life up…until last night. “BJ, It’s Jessie.” Jessie held the phone away from her ear. “Not so loud. Not so loud.” She listened as BJ told her what she’d done the night before.

“How’d you know? Are you spying on me?”

The voice on the other end of the phone laughed, loudly it seemed to Jessie’s ears. “Well, Slater called.” Jessie listened a short minute then “Ya Ya I know. I should have hung up. But I was lonely and it felt good to talk to an old friend.”

Jessie knew exactly what BJ would say before she said it. Slater was not her friend. If he was he wouldn’t have gotten her drunk again. “I try, BJ but it don’t matter how hard I try to keep myself busy, something always happens to mess me up. Can you come over? I want to talk to you about that God stuff.”

DJ showed up and told Jessie that the Bible says that there are rules to follow in our walk with God. But He understands that it is impossible for us to keep all those rules all the time without help. He sent us that help in the form of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus died and then rose again and now resides in heaven as our intercessor before the Father. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit when He went to heaven so we’d have a comforter and interpreter, a teacher.

Dear Father, Forgive my independence. Help me rely on You, draw on Your strength in the battles ahead. Place Your heavenly angels around me to ward of the temptations of this world until I can enter eternity. Amen

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Rules Are For Good

Picture1Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. Romans 3:19   (NLT)

The rules were posted. Digger walked over to the bar and watched as one by one the members of the club scanned them, Some appeared as if they didn’t care but others had a worried frown on their face. “Ya don’t bust de rules and ya don’t get busted… in da face.” He laughed and took a swig of the beer he’d snagged from behind the counter. “I see anyone breakin any a dos rules and they get their legs broke…hear?”

Digger growled to let his fellow club members know that as president, he meant business. “And ya betta keep yur eyes peeled. Ya see anyone doing somethin’ that ain’t allowed, ya gotta let me know…see?” He swaggered back to the table against the back wall and sat. Three of his buddies, for they were family after all, sat waiting for him to deal the cards for their next poker game.

Digger began to shuffle the cards as he peered through dingy glasses toward the three other men sporting large tattoos all over their upper arms. Their grins faded and they took a look at the cards they’d been dealt. Expletives filled the air as one by one they submitted their protests. “We been a part of this club as long as you have. Why we gotta follow a bunch a rules?”

“Rules gives us no excuses. See? Rules show us when we mess up and no one can say it was this way or that anymore. We know clear.”

Digger didn’t know it but he was right. Rules clearly show us where we are wrong. The Bible’s Ten Commandments give us a list of rules to follow, rules that formed the beginning of the laws in this country. No one can, with all honesty, say they’ve never broken one of the Ten Commandments. Consequently, they are able to see their need for Jesus in their lives, the only one perfect enough to pay the price exacted by a Righteous and Just God.

Father, thank You for handing Moses the Ten Commandments so we can clearly see we are sinners. Thank You for paying the price for that sin. Thank you for allowing us entry into heaven as brothers and sisters of Christ, Your One and Only Son. Amen

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Better Than You?

Ponce Inlet 006What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved, both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin. Romans 3:9  (KJV)

She walked past them, head held high. Her clothes, designer inspired, came straight out of the latest fashion magazine. Her heels clacked on the sidewalk as she carefully stepped around the unkempt man lying against the lamp post. The stench reached her nostrils just as she passed. Her stomach muscles contracted in an effort to keep her lunch in its place.

“Humph,” she intoned her displeasure. Surely they could do something about these people littering the sidewalk. Why aren’t they at work anyway? Sarah’s car was parked just up the block and she hurriedly stashed her purchases in the backseat before unlocking her front door. I’ll have to make a complaint to the store owners and maybe if they think they’ll lose business, they’ll force city council to clean up the streets. Her thoughts continued along those lines all the way home.

Sarah rounded the last corner. Sitting on the bottom step leading to her front door was a face that she’d hoped never to see again. It had been 12 years. Things had changed. Sarah parked the car, stepped gingerly toward the entryway and frowned at the person who reminded her so much of who she had been.

“Jeep, how yak doing’?” The scantily clad woman, aged beyond her years, held a smoking cigarette in her left hand and waved with her right.

Sarah frowned harder. “Don’t call me that. That’s not who I am anymore.”

“Yeah, well we was buds. Remember. I helped you out once and now I need some help.” She placed a long fingered hand, nails chipped, on her hip. “Maybe that rich husband of yours can loan me enough money to get out of here and go back home. Curly is going to kill me when he finds out I didn’t turn any tricks last night. I was so tired.”

Sarah cringed at the words coming from this woman’s mouth. She’d been there. She knew that life and wanted nothing to do with it anymore. She’d changed and she was better than these people now.

Sarah looked as if she‘d never committed a sin in her life but she was just like anyone else; hooker, murder, thief. She was a sinner. The Bible tells us that we are all under sin and therefore need a Savior, someone to appease a righteous God. Sarah, even if she’d never been a hooker, would still have needed a Savior. Do You?

Father God, send me Your Holy son, the perfect propitiation, so that I can have a right relationship with You. Forgive my pride, that feeling that makes me think I’m better than anyone else. Forgive myself dependence and help me to become wholly dependent on You. Amen

 

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Took My Place

St. Augustine 002And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2  (KJV)

Droplets of sweat dotted his cold damp forehead. Crater sat on the lumpy cot, cringing inside, contemplating his death. He was innocent but that didn’t seem to matter to these people; the prison guards, prison warden, the prosecutor and the judge who had sentenced him. They believed he was guilty and deserved their harshest punishment. Crater knew who should be there instead of him. He loved the man. He’d never squeal on him. So he waited.

The inmates on either side of him, waiting with him, seemed to sense his preoccupation with the next steps in his life, the steps that would take him, and someday them, to the gas chamber. They tried to distract him but they, too, were preoccupied with the clock ticking nearby. Each tick grew louder as time rushed towards completion of the sentence handed down by the judge, a righteous man, who believed he was doing the right thing.

Jesus Christ walked this path for you and me. He knew we were guilty of the sin He was going to be executed for and yet He said nothing. His heart did not feel anger towards us for the position we’d put Him in. He extends to us LOVE, unconditional. He walked the Via Delarosa to hang on a cross. Someone had to pay the price exacted by God for the sin we committed. We turn our backs on God’s perfect standards every day. Jesus was the appeasement that would bring us into right fellowship with our Creator.

If you have not done so already, accept that Jesus died in your place, for your sins. Feel the emotional impact of those words and His deed. Repent. Begin life anew. Place your trust in the Holy Spirit to teach and guide you as you walk toward eternity.

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