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Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes,

our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions,

they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Quincy Adams

Many in today’s world want to believe that truth is relative. You’ll hear them say, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me.”

In the case of taste, that statement may apply. You might love coconut, hard rock music, and skinny jeans ; I do not. And that should be OK. We all have our preferences.

But to understand the absolutes of reality, we must consider the facts and evidence in order to judge rightly and respond accordingly. Truth is truth. And when it comes to our eternal destiny, we cannot risk basing our hopes on untruth, no matter how well-intentioned.

Yet falsehoods frequently masquerade as truth, and have for centuries.

So how are we supposed to know what is right and true concerning our eternal destiny?

Behold the Truth

There’s no getting around the fact that every one of us will die. And though we don’t know the details of what happens next, the Bible is clear: When we trust in Jesus, who took the punishment we deserve for our sins, God graciously grants us eternal life with him in heaven (John 3:16). This is the way he’s established (John 14:6).

But why should we believe the Bible? That‘s a key question every person needs to be able to answer.

Whole books have been written on the subject; I’ve listed a few at the end of this post. But here’s a sample of categories that affirm the Bible is reliable truth, to whet your appetite. And with each I’ve provided just one example or a link to one.

So what facts and evidence prove the Bible is true?

  • Thousands of archaeological discoveries verify names and places mentioned in the Bible. Nothing has been found to repudiate any scripture. (One amazing example: When Truth Unfolds.)
  • Over 5,000 ancient manuscripts or fragments corroborate the Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include 800-900 manuscripts representing every Old Testament book except Esther. They date from about 225 B.C. to 50 A.D.
  • Hundreds of prophecies have come true with 100% accuracy. (Compelling Evidence offers just one set of prophecies concerning one city–all of them fulfilled with mind-boggling perfection.)
  • A number of scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible have also been proven accurate. One example:
  • Over the centuries, millions of lives have been transformed because of Christ’s work within them. (When Love Drove Out Hate tells just one miraculous story.)

But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself “the state of facts and evidence.”

Study the photos of archaeological finds. Many are available online.

Learn about fulfilled, biblical prophecies and why the argument that they were written after the fact is provably false. (Read Is the Bible True?/ Fulfilled Prophecy as a good starting point.)

Consider all the scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible and how unfolding knowledge over the ensuing centuries has verified their accuracy.

Read biographies of those who hit rock bottom in their lives and how God lifted them up, often in miraculous ways.    

We begin to recognize lies

when we know the truth.

Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word, 76

And if we truly seek after God, he has promised, we will find him (Proverbs 8:17).

Believe in the Truth

Many people believe that heaven is earned. If our good deeds outweigh the bad, God will allow us to enter. But that teaching is not in the Bible. And if we’re going to assert the veracity of scripture (which we must, given the overwhelming evidence), then we have to accept:

This is not a matter of taste, choosing our beliefs depending on what we like, as with food, music, or clothing.

This is a matter of life and death.

Now is the time to behold the Truth, believe in the Truth, and belong to the Truth, if you haven’t made that choice before.

You’ll be so glad you did!

If you’re already a Christian, please share in the comment section below about what brought you to accept the Bible as truth and Jesus Christ as the Way to eternal life.

For further reading: The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, both by Lee Strobel, and Why Should I Trust the Bible by William D. Mounce.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.jenikirbyhistory.getarchive.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com.

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To say I love decorating our Christmas tree would only be partly true.  If an assistant could arrange the prickly branches of our artificial tree and then drape and tuck the lights so they’re evenly dispersed, I’d be thrilled.

For me, the fun doesn’t begin until I unpack our collection of beloved hodge-podge ornaments—from family, friends, members of the churches my husband pastored, and students of the elementary classes I taught. It’s a delightful challenge to find the perfect spot for each one.

Some I hang where a tree light can serve as a tiny spotlight.

Other ornaments are perched over a light . . .

 . . . and still others are lit from within.

The aim is to create a tree that glows with reflected light.

One year, on a mid-December afternoon, Steve came home to find the tree collapsed on the floor.  Strings of lights snaked outward in uneven loops, and decorations lay scattered hither and yon. (Thankfully only a few ornaments shattered; the most prized survived.)

Our tree was much bigger with many more decorations,
so you can imagine the mess!

A moment later I arrived home.  Steve met me at the door, a pained expression on his face. “I have some bad news,” he began.

Immediately our two college-age children Eric and Heather came to mind—due to arrive home for winter break at any moment. Had there been an accident? Or maybe it was our youngest, Jeremy, who still lived at home.  Had something happened to him?

However, Steve’s expression didn’t indicate that level of emergency.  In the split second before he continued my mind riffled through other scenarios. Maybe one of our incoming Christmas cards included sad news, or perhaps something untoward had happened to a church member.

When Steve did reveal the problem, I actually felt relief and gratitude. A toppled Christmas tree was nothing compared to those other conjectures.

While taking my turn to evaluate the damage, Steve said, “I’m so sorry; I know how much you love the tree.  Listen–I’ll go to CVS and pick up that prescription you called in this morning; you wait here for the kids. We can figure this out later.” And off he went.

Unbeknownst to me, as he was pulling out of the driveway, Eric and Heather pulled in. They rolled down their windows to greet one another, then Steve told them, “Be extra nice to your mother—the Christmas tree fell down. I’m on my way to CVS to pick up a prescription for her.  I’ll be back in a few minutes!”

Steve continued backing out toward the street; Eric and Heather looked at one another in astonishment.

“Whoa!” Heather exclaimed.  “I can understand Mom’s upset, but she needs a prescription?”

They pictured me in full grieving mode.

Moments later the three of us laughed uproariously over the misunderstanding, then again when Steve returned, and once more when Jeremy arrived. 

Little did we know that all these years later we’d still be laughing about that toppled tree and Mom needing a prescription. In fact, just two weeks ago on Thanksgiving the story was repeated and everyone chuckled–again.

No doubt you have your own stories of imperfect Christmases. Interesting isn’t it–those are the ones that especially warm our hearts and make us smile.

The first Christmas story includes its share of imperfect moments too—although certainly not the humorous variety:

  • A grueling trip to Bethlehem at the very end of Mary’s pregnancy
  • No place to stay when Mary and Joseph arrived
  • The birth of the Messiah-King in a stable-cave
  • His first bed–a feeding trough
  • His first visitors–scruffy shepherds

Little could Mary and Joseph have known that the story of Jesus’ birth –full of imperfections as it was–would warm our hearts and make us smile all these years later. Why?  Because the Lord of heaven became one of us—born into the imperfect circumstances of this world. He understands completely every imperfection we face.

He also knows our internal flaws–our weaknesses, failures, and sinfulness—yet loves us anyway, and offers His perfect gift of salvation and eternity in heaven with Him.

One day—perhaps soon–all imperfections will be erased when Jesus returns to earth. 

May these truths of the ancient Christmas story warm your heart and make you smile—all season long and beyond.

_______________

(Other related scripture:  John 1:14; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 9:15; James 1:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 21:1-4)

P.S. We never did determine exactly what caused the tree to fall!

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (4); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.jeffholcomb.com; http://www.pixhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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Jurgen Moltmann’s eyes searched the German forest for a glimpse of his fellow soldiers’ Nazi gray uniforms. Somehow he’d gotten separated from his unit and was now alone near the front lines.

Not far ahead he detected movement in the trees, then spotted a brown army jacket and the unmistakable shape of the other soldier’s helmet: British.

Moltmann made a split-second decision. He put his hands on top of his head, and walked toward the enemy. After a year and half of war, after enduring nightly bombing raids in Hamburg and witnessing the horrific deaths of friends, Moltmann decided he’d endured enough.

It wasn’t a war he believed in anyway. Hitler had cut short his education in 1943 when Moltmann’s whole class was assigned to the anti-aircraft batteries in Hamburg. He’d been just sixteen years old.

As he approached the British soldier, Moltmann thought, Being a POW can’t be worse than the war itself. But behind the barbed wire of the camp in Belgium he suffered horrific nightmares, felt unrelenting guilt for what his country had done, and collapsed into deep depression and hopelessness.

 

German prisoners, February 1944

 

Later Moltmann was transferred to Kilmarmock, Scotland, assigned to a POW road crew. Relentless rain drummed on their backs day after day. To and from the work site he and fellow prisoners rode in trucks—silent, with heads down near their knees. “It was a picture of real forsakenness,” Moltmann later recounted (1).

While in Scotland, a U.S. Army chaplain gave Moltmann a Bible, and out of boredom he started to read. In the book of Mark he encountered another Man who also knew forsakenness, and soon the young soldier came to believe in Christ.

The war ended in April of 1945 but at least 400,000 German prisoners were kept in the British camps, to be repatriated to their homeland one boatload at a time. Germany had been decimated; there weren’t enough places to live nor enough food to eat if all the prisoners were returned en masse.

 

 

In 1946, Moltmann was transferred to Norton Camp in Nottinghamshire, England, which the YMCA helped to run. Though still prisoners, the men were allowed to study education or theology.

Moltmann chose the latter, anxious to understand more of his newfound Christian faith. He took advantage of the large library and proffered lectures. He learned Hebrew and Greek.

Frank and Nellie Baker, a young pastor and his wife, served several small churches in the area. God gave them the desire to minister to the POWs of Norton Camp. With the commander’s permission, the couple took a prisoner home for dinner each Sunday after worship.

Moltmann was one of them. “The seed of hope was planted in my heart around Frank and Nellie Baker’s Sunday dinner table,” he said (2).

In 1947, he attended a Student Christian Movement conference. There he experienced reconciliation with young men and women who had fought for the Allies.

As a result of the forgiveness and increasing hope in his spirit, Moltmann decided to continue his study of theology once he returned to Germany, to better understand “the power of hope that had saved his life” (3).

 

 

Since Moltmann had been one of the last Germans captured, he was one of the last to be sent home, in 1948. By 1952, he had earned a doctorate degree and become pastor of the Evangelical Church of Bremen-Wasserhorst.

In subsequent years he taught theology at an academy (1958-1963), then Bonn University (1963-1967), and finally the University of Tubingen (1967-1994).

Moltmann also wrote forty-three books. The first, published in 1964, carried a highly appropriate title: The Theology of Hope. And today he is regarded as “one of the most significant theologians of the age” (4).

 

Jurgen Moltmann, March, 2016

 

But if it weren’t for hope, we’d surely not know of Jurgen Moltmann because “without hope one cannot live,” he wrote. “To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: ‘Leave behind all hope, you who enter here’” (Theology Of Hope).

 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/843177

 

Moltmann’s transcending hope prospered in the war’s aftermath, even amidst the decimation, grief, and uncertainty, because he embraced what Christ offered him: resurrection hope.

“Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering. If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death” (Theology of Hope) (5).

That gleam of resurrection hope has now been shining through Jurgen Moltmann for over seventy years, impacting for eternity countless others.

We would do well to remember him, consider his way of life, and imitate his faith (Hebrews 13:7).

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://highprofiles.info/interview/jurgen-moltman/
  2. http://www.jacoblupfer.com/blog/2015/2/28/where-jurgen-moltmann-found-hope
  3. https://scienceandbelief.org/tag/norton-camp/
  4. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/liberation-and-hope-10-of-the-best-jurgen-moltmann-quotes/83599.htm
  5. https://ryandueck.com/2007/06/19/moltmann-on-hope/

 

Sources:

https://highprofiles.info/interview/jurgen-moltman/

www.jacoblupfer.com/blog

https://scienceandbelief.org/tag/Norton-camp/

https://spu.edu/depts/uc/response/spring2k8/features/wartime-blessings.asp

Grace Notes by Phillip Yancey, Zondervan, 2009, p. 116.

Volume 10, Tome 1, Kierkegaard’s Influence on Theology: German Protestant Theology, edited by Jon Stewart.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.simple.m.wikimedia.org; http://www.az quotes.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Contrasts have a way of attracting notice.  Consider:

  • A sparkling diamond against black velvet
  • One lone light shining against the night
  • The first bright flower of spring against pale snow

The stories of Good Friday and Easter are also full of contrasts. Consider:

  • The false witnesses who twisted Jesus’ words—against his sinless life “full of grace and truth” (Matthew 26:59; John 1:14).

  • The frenzied clamor of the crowd—against the self-controlled silence of Jesus (Matthew 27:22-24; 27:14)
  • The mournful wails of women on their way to Golgotha— against the overflowing joy of women on their way to tell the disciples, “Jesus has risen from the dead!” (Luke 23:27; Matthew 28:8)

  • The horrific ugliness of the scourging and crucifixion—against the poignant beauty of Jesus caring for his mother (John 19:23, 26-27)
  • The disbelief of the centurion, guards, and one of the thieves crucified with Jesus—against the newfound faith they all experienced, born out of watching Jesus die (Luke 22:63-65 and 23:36, Matthew 27:48 and 27:54, Luke 23:40-43)

  • The darkness that covered the land during those last hours of Jesus’ crucifixion—against the lightning-brilliance of the angel who announced his resurrection (Matthew 27:45, 28:2-3)
  • The curtain-barrier to the Most Holy Place in the temple—against the free and open entrance to God’s presence, made available to all when he tore that curtain in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:19-22)
  • The most grievous and repugnant deed of history—against the most glorious and life-changing reality: Jesus was raised from the dead to eternal life and now offers the same incredible prospect for us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 55, 57).

These and other contrasts of the Easter story attract undeniable notice to the perfections of our Savior, the unfathomable love that prompted his sacrifice, and the power of his incomparable resurrection—if we have eyes to see.

And eyes that truly see inspire hearts that fervently respond–in faithful love and grateful obedience.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Precious Jesus, how we long for words to fully express our praise to you! Against all the forces of evil, you arose victorious. Now, in place of our guilt you provide healing forgiveness and eternal salvation. Now we needn’t fear the day when our eyes close on earth for the last time, because in the next moment, they will open in heaven. Hallelujah!      

(Zechariah 9:9; Revelation 19:16; Philippians 2:9-11;

Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 113)

Art & photo credits: http://www.pexels.com; http://www.flickr.com;  www.wallpaper4god.com.; http://www.heartlight.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net.

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If you have an extra $1,300 you need to spend, you’re in luck! A high-end department store offers an item of clothing you can purchase for just that amount: a belt.

You’d think the buckle would be gold at that price. Nope, it’s brass. And it’s shaped in the logo of the company. So you get to pay them to advertise for their company on your midsection.

Now some might treasure such a purchase, but I’d choose a different belt as my treasure: the belt of truth the Apostle Paul referenced in Ephesians 6:14. No doubt he wanted us to understand:

Just as a belt holds clothing close to the body, a belt of truth holds the confidence of our faith close to our hearts.

And truth is a treasure, in spite of ethical relativists who would throw it away.

Why?

 

(www.quotefancy.com/John Owen)

 

Some will say, “That’s a very arrogant and exclusive thing to say, that we have to accept absolutes revealed by God in the Bible!”

But isn’t it just as arrogant to dismiss him–and his Son Jesus? Can we afford to ignore Jesus’ claim to be the [only] way [to God], and the [real] truth, and the [real] life (John 14:6 AMP)– without thorough investigation? And isn’t it being exclusive to exclude the Son of God from careful consideration?

 

 

Such truth as presented in John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 requires a response. We can’t afford to ignore even the possibility of truth about such a life-and-death matter.

But then there are those who do not find John Owen’s statement (above) offensive, and would agree: We find reliable guidance, strengthening confidence, and expectant hope in the truths of God’s Word.

 

 

Imagine that belt of truth Paul wrote about, woven with spirit-strengthening statements. What truths would you choose?

Try on this combination for size. Cinch them snug around your heart by speaking each truth out loud:

 

  • God loves you and has your best interest at heart (Jeremiah 31:3; 29:11).

 

 

  • With perfect wisdom and understanding, he has thoughtfully planned out your life (Psalm 139:16). Therefore,

 

“Never be afraid of giving up your best

and God will give you his better.”

–Unknown

 

  • God is all-powerful and in control of all things, including your circumstances (Isaiah 14:24). How empowering to know…

 

…“There is no situation so chaotic that

God cannot from that situation,

create something surpassingly good.

He did it at the creation.

He did it at the cross.

He is doing it today.”

—Bishop Moule

 

  • He faithfully leads you in the way you should go (Psalm 23:3). You can count on him because:

 

 

  • All that God is, is always at work (John 5:17).

 

“If you are praying about it

God is working on it.”

–Unknown

 

  • He is constantly by your side, ready to help in a myriad of ways (Psalm 145:18-19).

 

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you,

all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you,

all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you,

all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.”

–Thomas Brooks

 

  • God’s peace, joy and hope are forever available (Psalm 29:11; John 15:11; Romans 5:5).  And what is hope?

 

 

And his word is absolute truth.

The more I learn about archaeological evidence, ancient manuscript verification, fulfilled prophecy, historical substantiation, and creation science, the more astounded I am by the great volume of proof upholding the authenticity of God’s truth in the Bible.

His truth is the reliable confidence of our faith, a treasure worth cinching close to our hearts.

 

What scriptural truths do you treasure?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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Years ago Steve’s Aunt Louise gave us a little ceramic church music box.  With its drab gray walls, greenish-gray roof, and standard steeple, the church did not grab attention. But the arched windows on each side were filled with tiny chips of colored glass, and when lit from within the little church sparkled with glorious light.

Sometime when our three children were young, the church was broken by “Not Me.” Fortunately, the pieces were large and Steve was able to glue them back together.   When the light was turned on, the cracks didn’t even show.

But as the years passed, the glue began to discolor and turn dark. The poor little music box became a sad sight, and I was about to throw it away when our youngest son–probably in high school by this time–said, “Oh, Mom! You can’t get rid of the church! That’s been my favorite Christmas decoration since I was a little kid!”

So Jeremy saved the music box from destruction.

 

 

He finished college, married a sweet girl from our church, and moved twice more while attending seminary. Somewhere along the way the music box disappeared.

Each year as he and his wife Nancy decorated for Christmas, he’d remember fondly that little ceramic church and wonder what happened to it.

Seminary graduation came and went, four years at his first church appointment also passed. While settling into their second parsonage, Jeremy finally unpacked a carton labeled “Memorabilia” that had been sealed up since he left our home.

Buried at the bottom was a sealed shoebox. Jeremy sliced through the tape with his pocketknife, lifted the lid, and brought into the light a lumpy, tissue-wrapped object.

 

 

Within moments Jeremy held in his hands that precious, long-missing ceramic church. And joyful tears stung his eyes.

He quickly found a new bulb and plugged the cord into a nearby socket. The windows instantly filled with glorious rainbow light. Jeremy didn’t even notice the fissures or dark, crusty glue.

Isn’t it amazing to consider that, just as Jeremy loves that damaged music box, God loves us—scarred, and imperfect as we are? We too were just as lost as that little church—sealed up in a box of our own prideful independence.

 

 

But Jesus came looking for us. He brought us into his glorious Light, and filled us with the Light of his inviting, benevolent grace.*

Now, we have the privilege to shine with gleaming Light just like that little church—in spite of our scars.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

God of all grace, I thank you for rescuing me from mere existence in my self-made box, and bringing me into a rich, full life with you. Even though cracks and blemishes remain in my being, what you see is not what I have been but what I am becoming—holy and blameless and filled with Light—for that day when I see you as you are!

 

(John 10:10; Ephesians 1:4; John 8:12; 1 John 3:2)

 

 

 

*Often defined by using an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

 

Scripture references: Luke 15:8-10; John 8:12; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 3:24; Matthew 5:14.

 

(Photo credits:  Jeremy Ruegg (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org (Ben Steed); http://www.verseaday.com.)

 

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Johnny reached for the highball near his workspace, even though it was only 10:00 in the morning. It was a necessity, he told himself, to help release his creativity and wit. How else was he supposed to come up with new ideas day after day?

He had thought a new home in the country would provide inspiration, renewed energy for his work, and the tranquility he longed for. But once he and his wife Bobby settled on their 150-acre estate, with a huge, wood-paneled studio overlooking a 25-acre lake, Johnny found himself just as unhappy and uninspired as before the move.

 

(Not Johnny’s and Bobby’s lake, but perhaps similar)

 

The success he’d achieved, the fortune he had acquired, the entertainment he pursued did not provide the satisfaction he’d expected.

Not long after settling into their new home, Johnny and Bobby decided to address its one drawback: there was no television reception. They purchased a satellite system.

The company sent a father/son team to install it—a process that became more complicated and time-consuming than anyone expected. The father and son stayed in the large studio for the days it took to complete the task.

As work progressed to hook up the several TVs in the house and one in the studio, the two men tuned in to a Christian station. Johnny found himself drawn to the screens, listening to the likes of D. James Kennedy, a well-respected preacher and author at the time.  Johnny had been a believer in Jesus when he was young, but had drifted away in adulthood.

The more he listened, the more he remembered what he’d learned years before in Sunday School: God made us humans and loves us. But we are sinful, and sin separates us from him. So God sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to die in our place. And those who believe in him receive the incredible gift of eternal life with him in heaven when we die (John 3:16).

 

 

Johnny began reading the Bible and felt his doubts, dissatisfaction and fears melting away. In their place he noticed a deep sense of peace and purpose.

Part of that purpose was to allow his rekindled faith to impact his work as a cartoonist. He began to include Christian references in his highly successful comic strip, “B.C.”

You might remember it. Simple drawings of cavemen, dinosaurs, ants, and other animals inhabited a very stark habitat. The genius wasn’t in the drawings; it was in the puns, irony, wordplay, and dry humor that Johnny Hart produced for fifty years, from 1957-2007.

For example, in one strip, a caveman says, “God, if you’re up there, give me a sign.” In the next frame, a huge neon sign sits crookedly and slightly buried in the sand in front of the caveman. It has obviously just fallen from the sky, and it reads—in big capital letters—“I’M UP HERE.”

Of course, Johnny was criticized for those strips that affirmed Christian beliefs. His response to such reproach was to ask a question:

“What purpose would I serve if I had the answer to the mystery of life only I did not tell it for the sake of what other people believe (1)?”

One of Johnny Hart’s strips about the mystery of life moved me to tears.

It appeared on Good Friday, 1996.

There were simply four empty panels with no artwork and no conversation bubbles. The first panel was gray, the second a shade darker, the third darker still, and the last frame was completely black. That final panel carried the simple caption: Good Friday.

Such a simple presentation, but overflowing with meaning. For me, the progression toward black was symbolic of Jesus’ experiences that day—from betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane to an unlawful trial, a flogging, a crown of thorns, a heavy cross to carry, and the worst torture man has ever devised: crucifixion. The land was shrouded in darkness that day for three hours (Mark 15:33).

But oh, it is Good Friday, because that darkest deed of history became our bright victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

 

 

And because of Jesus’ profound sacrifice, we do have hope, peace, purpose, and more.

Johnny Hart would want us to know.

 

Note:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Sources:

1) https://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/572-newsletters/the-buzz/4671-johnny-hart-i-did-it-his-way

2)http://jeffjenkinsocala.blogspot.com/2008/07/bc-comics-censored.html

3) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flicr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

 

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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Cookie Ingredients Bake Cookies Christmas Time Bake

 

Lena was baking Christmas cookies when she realized her wedding ring was missing.

The family searched everywhere. No ring. Lena, of course, was heartsick. She had designed the ring herself—a band of white gold with seven small diamonds.

Years later when they renovated the kitchen and took up the old floor tile, the family again searched carefully. Still no ring.

One morning Lena was harvesting carrots from her garden when she pulled up a surprise. The carrot in her hand wore her wedding ring.

Lena surmised the ring had fallen into a pile of vegetable peelings in the kitchen sink and become part of their compost heap—sixteen years previously.

 

carrot-3-600x377

 

_________________________

 

Petunia, an American Staffordshire terrier, somehow escaped her family’s Virginia farm in 2003. In spite of a vigilant search, they were not able to find their pet.

Imagine the family’s surprise, eight years later, to receive a phone call that their dog had been located. The woman who found Petunia took her to a vet who scanned her microchip and discovered the address of Petunia’s family. However, getting her home was a bit complicated. Petunia had wandered 3,000 miles—all the way to California.

 

petunia

(Petunia)

 

_________________________

 

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(A scenic spot in Mark Twain National Forest)

 

In early May of 2009, three-year old Joshua Childers decided to take a hike in Mark Twain National Forest, not far from his home in southeastern Missouri. He was wearing sneakers, a T-shirt, and a pull-up diaper. It wasn’t long before Joshua was lost.

Joshua’s family notified authorities and for 52 heart-in-the-throat hours dozens of searchers combed through the underbrush, worried every moment the toddler would succumb to exposure in the wet and chilly weather, fall over a cliff or into a creek, or be attacked by mountain lion, bear, or snake. There were so many dangers to which a three-year old would be susceptible. And, of course, he had no food or water.

 

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(Southern Copperhead, one of five poisonous species in Missouri.)

 

After two days, searchers were beginning to lose hope of finding the boy alive. Finally one of the volunteers spotted Joshua huddled in a hollow near a creek bed. He wasn’t moving. The volunteer feared the worst but called out to the boy. Joshua sat up and grinned.

 

_________________________

 

Such stories receive much attention on social media, some even make it to the national news. Everybody loves a lost-and-found story. We find them satisfying, uplifting, and even resonating deep within our souls.

Why is that?

First, the impact of such stories is magnified by the importance of the lost items. If Lena’s ring had been costume jewelry, if Petunia had been a plastic toy dog or Joshua had been a doll, we would hardly react.

Second, we marvel at the odds. A ring found on a carrot? A dog found 3,000 miles away from home? A toddler found unharmed in a damp and chilly forest after 52 hours? The feel-good endorphins kick in when we hear such news.

Jesus told his own lost-and-found stories: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

 

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(The Prodigal Son by Charles Joseph Lecointe)

 

The sheep was lost because he foolishly left the watchful care of the shepherd and went his own way. The coin was lost through no fault of its own. And the prodigal son willfully lost his way in life through self-centered pursuits.

Each story illustrates: It doesn’t matter to God how we got lost; every one of us is important to him. He longs to restore us to the place where we belong: in his care and keeping.

And that brings us to the third reason we like lost-and-found stories.

We were programmed to be found, and to experience a happy ending—at home in heaven—where we’ll find secure safety, joy beyond imagination, and everlasting peace.

 

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(“Our hearts were made for you, O Lord,

and they are restless until they rest in you”

–St. Augustine.)

 

That’s why Jesus came—to find each of us and restore us to our Heavenly Father, because we were lost (Luke 19:10). And just like Lena who polished her soil-encrusted wedding band until it shone, Jesus makes us new, shining like stars (Philippians 2:15).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God, that my soul has found rest in you. You are my rock of stability and fortress of protection; You are my salvation from all that would destroy me (Psalm 62:1-2).

“And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice” (Psalm 119:176, MSG).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.littlethings.com; http://www.motleydogs.com; http://www.fs.usda.gov; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimediacommons.org; http://www.pinterest.com.

 

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She was more animal than human – grabbing food and stuffing her mouth, communicating with grunts, and reacting wildly to anything that did not suit her.

A teacher was hired to train the totally undisciplined six-year old, and make her into a mannerly, well-behaved child. To complicate matters, the child could neither hear nor see, the result of a high fever when she was a toddler. You’ve no doubt guessed her identity–Helen Keller, and the teacher’s–Anne Sullivan.

 

helen_keller_with_anne_sullivan_in_july_1888

 

You’ll remember that little Helen was not only wild but willful, too. She balked ferociously at the changes Miss Sullivan tried to initiate, attacking with fists and feet, tearing at clothing, and biting. No one would have blamed Anne if she had given up.

But the young teacher was even more determined than Helen. She would reach beyond the barriers of deafness and blindness. So the two of them moved into a nearby cottage where Anne offered constant support and instruction. With patience and tremendous perseverance, she tended to Helen.

You know the outcome. Helen was transformed into a cultured intellectual, who graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 at age 24, and went on to become an author, an advocate for the handicapped, and even a lecturer. In addition, Helen and Anne became lifelong friends and constant companions.

 

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Their inspiring story illustrates several ways in which our lifelong Friend and constant Companion, Jesus, transforms our lives:

1. Just as Helen discovered life was a much more positive experience when she submitted to the mores of civilization, we too experience a more positive life when we accept God’s ways and purposes rather than insist on our own (John 10:10).

2. Anne took up residence with Helen, ready and willing to transform the girl into a glorious new version of herself. Jesus has taken up residence in our spirits (John 15:5). He, too, is ready and willing to transform us–“into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

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3. Helen balked at change, unwilling to give up her way of life—unsatisfactory as it was. Little did she know what Anne had to offer. I, too, am slow to learn that “when God empties our lives of a treasured love, it is to fill them more completely with the greater treasure of himself” – Herbert Lockyer (1).

4. The relationship between student and teacher developed into a deep friendship as Helen grew up. She said of her beloved teacher, the day Anne Sullivan arrived at her home was “the most important day I remember in all my life.” Those of us who know Jesus as Friend would say the same of the day he came to live within our spirits (2 Corinthians 5:17).

5. As a result of Anne Sullivan’s instruction, support, and perseverance, Helen exchanged:

  • Constant uncertainty for confidence
  • Helplessness for achievement
  • Ignorance for knowledge

Jesus does the same and more. Because he dwells within us, we can exchange:

  • Our uncertainty for his wisdom—James 1:5
  • Our frailties for his strength—2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Our puny efforts for his ability to accomplish the impossible—Luke 18:27
  • ALL our inadequacies for ALL the fullness of God—Ephesians 3:19 (2)

 

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *

 

I praise you, Lord Jesus, that the moment I invited you into my life, you began your transforming work—teaching, guiding, supporting, and encouraging. You have granted me newness of life! I am not a condemned sinner; I am a saint! I am no longer bound to the sinful nature; I am a brand new creature in you! I am not a reject; I am a beloved child of the King of the universe! Thank you, oh God, for these glorious realities.  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  But I am greatly relieved and overjoyed that it’s all true.

(Romans 6:6; 6:4, 8:1; Ephesians 2:18-20; Romans 8:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26; Psalm 139:6)

 

Notes:

(1) Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 15.

(2) Henry Blackaby, http://www.preceptaustin.org, Experiencing God Day by Day, “An Exchanged Life.”

 

Photos and art credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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