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beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Ragman.

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for.

Hush, child. Hush, now, and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: “Rags!” Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

“Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!”

“Now, this is a wonder,” I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, sighing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

“Give me your rag,” he said so gently, “and I’ll give you another.”

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then HE began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

“This IS a wonder,” I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

“Rags! Rags! New rags for old!”

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.

“Give me your rag,” he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, “and I’ll give you mine.”

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood – his own!

“Rags! Rags! I take old rags!” cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.

“Are you going to work?” he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head.

The Ragman pressed him: “Do you have a job?”

“Are you crazy?” sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket – flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

“So,” said the Ragman. “Give me your jacket, and I’ll give you mine.”

Such quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman – and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman’s arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

“Go to work,” he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, and old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider’s legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I needed to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.

The little old Ragman – he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh, how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope – because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know – how could I know? – that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night, too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light – pure, hard, demanding light – slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the last and the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow nor of age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: “Dress me.”

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset

New year resolutions-- Psalm 1



Do you make resolutions for the new year? While many people do, most resolutions last about as long as they take to make. What are we doing wrong?

Resolutions can be an admirable effort. However, application is often difficult. For example, I had originally hoped to finish handwriting the Bible a second time by the end of this year. Life has changed much since my original goal in 2013. I’m now “redirecting” (as the GPS would say) to a new goal of finishing by the end of 2018.

In looking at ways to improve my resolutions for the new year, I’ve found myself focusing on Psalm 1. This Psalm has often been called a summary and introduction to Psalms, the Bible’s longest book, with 150 chapters.

The way of the Blessed.

The first chapter is only six verses. The structure consists of three parts. Verses 1-3 focus the life of the person who is blessed.

What are the traits of a person who is blessed? The answer begins with three negatives:

  1. “does not walk in step with the wicked”
  2. does not “stand in the way of sinners”
  3. does not “walk in the company of mockers”


In contrast, the blessed person:

  1. delights in God’s law
  2. meditates on God’s words day and night


The person who does these two things is noted as:

  • being like a tree planted by streams of water (is healthy)
  • yields fruit in season (is fruitful)
  • does not wither (does not die)
The blessed person’s bottom line? The Psalmist writes “whatever they do prospers.”

The way of the wicked.


In contrast, verses 4-5 note the way of the wicked. In contrast with a fruitful tree, the wicked are like “chaff that the wind blows away.” They do not last. The Psalmist remarks the wicked will not stand.

In conclusion, the Psalmist notes, “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (v. 6).

For God’s blessing, we are to be righteous. How can we be righteous? Meditating on God’s words while avoiding the ways of the wicked.

Need some resolutions for 2018? Here are mine. Feel free to adapt for your own life:

  1. Focus on God’s Word daily: This involves either reading, listening, or writing out Scripture, even if for just a few moments a day.
  2. Avoid the ways of the wicked: We each have our own areas of weakness. Some of mine will include better diet and exercise, better media viewing choices, and investing more time in the people who matter most in my life–my wife, kids, and serving others in my community and beyond.


The Bible may not focus much on New Year’s resolutions, but it does offer a clear focus for our lives. The words of Psalm 1 mark the path clearly. We only need to read it and live it.


Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/holywrit/2017/12/new-years-advice-psalm-1/#vLCHipRR5Qcb3ztJ.99
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
One solitary life


Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant teacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never traveled, except in his infancy, more than two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompanies greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

While he was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through a mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth, his seamless robe. When he was dead, he was taken down from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave through the courtesy of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of all human progress. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has this one solitary personality.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
“Knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end?”

2 Samuel 2:26

If, O my reader! thou art merely a professor, and not a possessor of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the following lines are a true ketch of thine end.

You are a respectable attendant at a place of worship; you go because others go, not because your heart is right with God. This is your beginning. I will suppose that for the next twenty or thirty years you will be spared to go on as you do now, professing religion by an outward attendance upon the means of grace, but having no heart in the matter.

Tread softly, for I must show you the deathbed of such a one as yourself. Let us gaze upon him gently. A clammy sweat is on his brow, and he wakes up crying, “O God, it is hard to die. Did you send for my minister?” “Yes, he is coming.” The minister comes. “Sir, I fear that I am dying!” “Have you any hope?” “I cannot say that I have. I fear to stand before my God; oh! pray for me.”

The prayer is offered for him with sincere earnestness, and the way of salvation is for the ten-thousandth time put before him, but before he has grasped the rope, I see him sink. I may put my finger upon those cold eyelids, for they will never see anything here again. But where is the man, and where are the man's true eyes? It is written, “In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.”

Ah! why did he not lift up his eyes before? Because he was so accustomed to hear the gospel that his soul slept under it. Alas! if you should lift up your eyes there, how bitter will be your wailings. Let the Saviour's own words reveal the woe: “Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” There is a frightful meaning in those words. May you never have to spell it out by the red light of Jehovah's wrath!
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
“We will be glad and rejoice in thee.”

Song of Solomon 1:4

We will be glad and rejoice in thee. We will not open the gates of the year to the dolorous notes of the sackbut, but to the sweet strains of the harp of joy, and the high sounding cymbals of gladness. “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation.” We, the called and faithful and chosen, we will drive away our griefs, and set up our banners of confidence in the name of God.

Let others lament over their troubles, we who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah's bitter pool, with joy will magnify the Lord. Eternal Spirit, our effectual Comforter, we who are the temples in which thou dwellest, will never cease from adoring and blessing the name of Jesus. We will, we are resolved about it, Jesus must have the crown of our heart's delight; we will not dishonour our Bridegroom by mourning in his presence. We are ordained to be the minstrels of the skies, let us rehearse our everlasting anthem before we sing it in the halls of the New Jerusalem. We will be glad and rejoice: two words with one sense, double joy, blessedness upon blessedness.

Need there be any limit to our rejoicing in the Lord even now? Do not men of grace find their Lord to be camphire and spikenard, calamus and cinnamon even now, and what better fragrance have they in heaven itself? We will be glad and rejoice in Thee. That last word is the meat in the dish, the kernel of the nut, the soul of the text. What heavens are laid up in Jesus! What rivers of infinite bliss have their source, aye, and every drop of their fulness in him! Since, O sweet Lord Jesus, thou art the present portion of thy people, favour us this year with such a sense of thy preciousness, that from its first to its last day we may be glad and rejoice in thee. Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close with gladness in Jesus.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The crutch of Christianity.


Do everything decently and in order. That’s what the Bible admonishes in I Cor. 14:40. Order, it would seem, is a basic human need. Chaos can be fun for a time, as evidenced by the invention of roller coasters. But if an entire life is out of order, it’s human nature to become dispirited or anxious. Maybe a combination of both.

I’ve never understood the comfort or even so-called intelligent thinking behind the Big Bang Theory. First, there was nothing. Then KABOOM! Much matter came together to form a universe. And it happened independently, with no intelligent design or forethought or purpose behind it? Sounds like a wild sci-fi story invented by someone in imagination overdrive. And yet, many who have not wanted to admit the truth of Creation have shaken their defiant heads and said “Yes, Master Find-A-Way-to-Deny-God. We believe.”

It takes faith to believe anything. If you’re an atheist, you believe there’s nothing to believe in, except maybe yourself. You have fallen prey to your own religion, though you balk at other religions. And yet you believe religion is for the weak. For those who crave order and to know they have been put on earth for good reason. For those who need assurance that their life, however insignificant it feels, has meaning. For those who know deep down that their spiritual self, the self they don’t necessarily understand but cannot deny, will live forever though their body is bent on slowly, surely dying.

Religion is for the weak. Christianity, though more of a relationship than a religion, is especially for the weak. What religion besides Christianity requires a crutch? None. All besides Christianity say you either get to Heaven on your own strength, or you don’t get there at all. Christianity says that you either get to Heaven on Christ’s merit, or you don’t get there at all. Eternal life, Christianity says, is strictly a gift, as is faith. Christians are responsible to work out their faith with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), but works never ever ever earn them eternal life. Works are simply the natural result of genuine faith.

Christianity is lowly. It requires one to admit with their whole heart, in humility, that they are broken, sick, and incapable of helping themselves out of the miry pit of sin. That Jesus did in fact come to earth via a virgin’s womb and made His first public appearance as a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. That He grew to be a carpenter, and later entered into ministry until his unjust crucifixion at approximately age thirty-three, and died in our place. That three days after He was buried, He conquered death and rose again. And that someday, He will come again.

Christians must do away with foolish, false theories and trust what God has said in His Word to be absolute truth. Additionally, they must also be willing to be made fun of, mocked, or perhaps even killed one day for believing Christ is who He claims to be. Christianity may be a “crutch”, if you will, in that it is a life lived in dependence on Another. But the crux of Christianity is that believers must be willing to sacrifice and suffer, just as Christ did, which takes grit, gall, perseverance, and enough faith to stand up when a gunman orders you to, simply because you’re a Christian, and then shoots you in the head.

This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him, we also live with Him. If we endure (the KJV says suffer), we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (2 Tim. 11-13)

Apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5), so even grit, gall, perseverance, and faith are impossible, save for help from our Lord. But the reward is priceless: Life everlasting in His presence. Live everlasting in Heaven, where there will be no more tears, suffering, or death.



What does all this have to do with the Big Bang Theory, or any theory? Well, faith often starts with questions of the mind: Who made us? Who made the dirt we walk on? Who made the heavens and the oceans and the minerals? Who made my complex body? Did it all start with an abstract boom, or with the booming voice of Almighty God?

Genesis 1 has the answers, as does Genesis 2. You can find more about the ongoing allegation that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other here. But it is plainly written that God is indeed the Creator of all things:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)

And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. (Gen. 1:3)

He also made vegetation, fruit trees, the greater light to rule the day (the sun), and the lesser light to rule the night (the moon) — and the stars. On and on Genesis goes, to explain that it was indeed the booming voice of God that spoke everything into existence.

I’ve picked on The Big Bang theory, but choose any theory other than the theory of Creation, and you have a lie meant to satisfy a heart searching for deeper meaning and belonging, but also a heart in rebellion. I have angered people before for having such confidence and faith in Christ and the Bible’s claims about Creation. I am infantile and stupid, they’ve said. But in a Christian’s mind, being infantile is not a bad thing, because as Jesus said:

Truly I say unto you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. (Matt. 18:3)

I can tell my Grandkids there’s a pink elephant with green polka dots outside in our field, and you know what would happen? Their jaws would gape, their eyes would become twice their normal size, and they’d run to the window to see the circus. What I’m telling them seems strange, but they know and trust me to the degree that they’d automatically think my fictional story was true. Jesus’ point in Matt. 18:3 was not that any of His claims were fictional. His point was that in order to trust and “enter the kingdom”, one must humble themselves as a little child (Matt. 18:4). And when He says we must “turn” and become like children, He means we must repent of our self-sufficient, God-denying thinking — in this case, that we are here by chance.

Big Bang theorists and atheists are not stupid. Nobody is stupid. But everybody is sinful. Psalm 14:1 says The fool says in his heart “There is no God.” But a fool is not someone who doesn’t use their brain, in this context. It is someone who is blinded by their own sin, and can’t see the truth. If that is you, maybe you realize it, maybe you don’t. Either way, what’s the harm in offering up a prayer that asks God to reveal Himself to you, if He in fact exists?

He reveals Himself primarily through His Word and Jesus Christ, but also through creation, through followers of Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. So if you ask, be willing to see Him in creation and through other believers, to hear Him through His Word (the book of John would be a great start), and to be convicted and convinced by His Spirit. In other words, become childlike. Humble yourself. Accept the possibility of needing a “crutch.” Because it’s better to go to Heaven on a crutch than to go to Hell riding on pride and non-existent self-sufficiency.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The Bible mentions being “in Christ,” so what does this mean, and how can we be sure to be found in Christ?

Outside of Christ
It is very clear. Those outside of Christ are outside of the will of God and have the wrath of God abiding on them as it currently stands. They are in a hopeless state. They cannot save themselves any more than Lazarus could have raised himself from the dead.

He needed some help, but for all who refuse to come to Christ, they will remain outside of Christ, and that’s bad…very bad. When I hear people critique the Bible, I can say that they’re reading someone else’s mail, because it’s written “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:1).

It is to the faithful and those in Jesus Christ that the Book of Ephesians is written too. We are not of the world so we can’t expect the world to love us. On the contrary, they will hate us, but it’s really Jesus Who they hate and not us. It’s the message they hate more than the messenger…but make no mistake…they hate the messenger too.

We must come to recognize that just like I was, “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:1-2), and just as I was, “you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12), however, if you have trusted in Christ, “then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:20). If you haven’t trusted in Christ, then you are still outside of Christ, therefore you still have the wrath of God abiding on you (John 3:36b).


Inside of Christ
The Apostle Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3), and what are some of these blessings? Paul says it was “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 2:4c-5). God’s purpose was that “we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12).

Our hope is not in this world or even in us, but we place our hope in Christ, and by trusting Christ we are then in Christ. We believed in His name (John 1:13-14), we believe in His purpose (John 3:16; Mark 10:45), and we believe in His sinless-ness. We are now in Christ because we have placed all our trust in Christ. God then places us into the very righteousness of Christ so that God no longer sees our sins but He sees the righteousness of His Son (2 Cor 5:21). We were chosen in Him by the Father.

We were sanctified by His Word and by His Son, and even though we were once in the world (Eph 2:1-2), we are now found to be in Christ. It is only “in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21b). To be in Christ is to recognize that “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-29).

Impossible without God
Did you realize that Jesus Christ died outside of the Old Jerusalem? He died outside of Jerusalem so we could live forever in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-4). That’s the only way that mankind could ever be reconciled back to God. Our first parents were kicked out of the Garden and banned for life. Their going back to Eden was impossible…and it would have been impossible for us too except for the sinless Son of God Who gave His life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45).

Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26), and that’s true about the physical world, but it’s also true about salvation. If someone believes they can be a good enough of a person in this life and trust in that without trusting in Christ, they will be in for a huge disappointment when they stand before God…and we all will; either at Christ’s appearance, or after death (Heb 9:27). That makes today a great day to get this settled (2 Cor 6:2).

You cannot please God outside of trusting in Christ. All your works will be rejected as nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). You and I must have the very same righteousness as Jesus has or we can’t enter the kingdom. There is absolutely no other way to the Father except through Jesus Christ (John 6:44). When the guest tried to crash the wedding party, symbolic of the marriage feast of the Lamb of God and His bride, the church, he was tossed into the outer darkness (Matt 22:13). That’s because he was wearing his own clothes…or trusting in his own righteousness, but that is not acceptable to God. It must be the wedding garment; the white robs of the righteous of the saints, given by Christ Who purchased her with His own blood.

Conclusion
To be found in Christ means you’ve been reconciled back to God, and at death or at Christ’s return, you can enter into the eternal kingdom which descends down from heaven (Rev 21:1-4). Not only will you be in Christ…you will be in the kingdom…the glorious, eternal, and joyous kingdom, and best of all, be before the King of the kingdom. That day will see the end of all sorrow, all suffering, all pain, and even death itself because all the old things have passed away forever (Rev 21:4). Jesus has made all things new (Rev 21:5)!
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
''Let the people renew their strength.”

Isaiah 41:1

All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continueth by itself. “Thou renewest the face of the year,” was the Psalmist's utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labour, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth.

Neither can man's life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the waste of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the waste of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances. How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon him as the flowers wait upon the dew. Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within.

When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that hath not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven. If we suffer the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfilment of the promise, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
At the University of Chicago Divinity School each year they have what is called “Baptist Day”. It is a day when all the Baptists in the area are invited to the school because they want the Baptist dollars to keep coming in.

On this day each one is to bring a lunch to be eaten outdoors in a grassy picnic area. Every “Baptist Day” the school would invite one of the greatest minds to lecture in the theological education enter.

One year they invited Dr. Paul Tillich. Dr. Tillich spoke for 2 ½ hours proving that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection the religious tradition of the church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked if there were any questions. After about 30 seconds, an old, dark skinned preacher with a head of short-cropped, woolly white hair stood up in the back of the auditorium.

Docta Tillich, I got one question, he said as all eyes turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it.

“Docta Tillich (CRUNCH, MUNCH), My question is a simple question (CRUNCH, MUNCH). Now, I ain’t never read them books you read (CRUNCH, MUNCH) and I can’t recite the Scriptures in the original Greek (CRUNCH, MUNCH). I don’t know nothin’ about Niebuhr and Heidegger (CRUNCH, MUNCH)…” He finished the apple.

“All I wanna know is: This apple I just ate, was it bitter or sweet?”

Dr. Tillich paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple.

The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, “Neither have you tasted my Jesus.” The 1000 plus in attendance could not contain themselves. The auditorium erupted with applause and cheers.

Dr. Tillich thanked his audience and promptly left the platform.

Have you tasted Jesus? Please pass this on Saints! God has risen, and he’s coming back one day!

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. If you have, rejoice in the hope of the resurrection that your faith in Him brings. Psalm 34:8
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Fearing the battle was over
And I’d already lost the war,
I was tired of trying and failing.
I just couldn’t fight anymore.

So, dragging my battle-scarred body,
I crawled to the foot of the cross.
And I sobbed. ‘Oh please, Father forgive me.
But I tried…I tried.. and still lost.’

Then the air grew silent around me.
I heard his voice just as clear as the dawn:
‘Oh, My child, though you are tired and weary,
You can’t stop, you have to go on.’

At the foot of the Cross , where I met Him,
At the foot of the Cross, where He died,
I felt love, as I knelt in His presence .
I felt hope, as I looked in His eyes.

Then He gathered me lovingly to Him,
As around us God’s light clearly shone.
And together we walked though my lifetime
To heal every wound I had known.

I found bits of my dreams, long forgotten ,
And pieces of my life on the floor.
But I watched as He tenderly blessed them,
And my life was worth living once more.

I knew then why I had been losing.
I knew why I had not grown.
At the foot of the Cross came the answer:
I’d been fighting the battle alone.

At the foot of the Cross, where I met Him,
At the foot of the Cross, where He died,
Then I knew I could face any challenge
Together–just my Lord and I.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
One day, a man went to visit a church. He arrived early, parked his car, and got out. Another car pulled up near him, and the driver told him, “I always park there. You took my place!”

The visitor went inside for Sunday School, found an empty seat, and sat down. A young lady from the church approached him and stated, “That’s my seat! You took my place!” The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing.

After Sunday School, the visitor went into the church sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said, “That’s where I always sit. You took my place!”

The visitor was even more troubled by this treatment, but still said nothing. Later, as the congregation was praying for Christ to dwell among them, the visitor stood, and his appearance began to change.

Horrible scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and called out, “What happened to you?” The visitor replied…”I took your place.”
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The day is over, you are driving home. You tune in your radio. You hear a little blurb about a little village in India where some villagers have died suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It’s not influenza, but three or four fellows are dead, and it’s kind of interesting. They’re sending some doctors over there to investigate it.

You don’t think much about it, but on Sunday, coming home from church, you hear another radio spot. Only they say it’s not three villagers, it’s 30,000 villagers in the back hills of this particular area of India, and it’s on TV that night. CNN runs a little blurb; people are heading there from the disease center in Atlanta because this disease strain has never been seen before.

By Monday morning when you get up, it’s the lead story. For it’s not just India; it’s Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and before you know it, you’re hearing this story everywhere and they have coined it now as “the mystery flu”. The President has made some comment that he and everyone are praying and hoping that all will go well over there. But everyone is wondering, “How are we going to contain it?” That’s when the President of France makes an announcement that shocks Europe. He is closing their borders. No flights from India, Pakistan, or any of the countries where this thing has been seen.

That night you are watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. Your jaw hits your chest when a weeping woman is translated from a French news program into English: “There’s a man lying in a hospital in Paris dying of the mystery flu. “It has come to Europe.”

Panic strikes. As best they can tell, once you get it, you have it for a week and you don’t know it. Then you have four days of unbelievable symptoms. Then you die.

Britain closes it’s borders, but it’s too late. South Hampton, Liverpool, North Hampton, and it’s Tuesday morning when the President of the United States makes the following announcement: “Due to a national security risk, all flights to and from Europe and Asia have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I’m sorry. They cannot come back until we find a cure for this thing.”

Within four days our nation has been plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are selling little masks for your face. People are talking about what if it comes to this country, and preachers on Tuesday are saying, “It’s the scourge of God.”

It’s Wednesday night and you are at a church prayer meeting when somebody runs in from the parking lot and says, “Turn on a radio, turn on a radio!!” While the church listens to a little transistor radio with a microphone stuck up to it, the announcement is made, “Two women are lying in a Long Island hospital dying from the mystery flu.” Within hours it seems, this thing just sweeps across the country.

People are working around the clock trying to find an antidote. Nothing is working. California, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts. It’s as though it’s just sweeping in from the borders. Then, all of a sudden the news comes out. The code has been broken. A cure can be found. A vaccine can be made.

It’s going to take the blood of somebody who hasn’t been infected, and so, sure enough, all through the Midwest, through all those channels of emergency broadcasting, everyone is asked to do one simple thing: “Go to your downtown hospital and have your blood type taken. That’s all we ask of you. When you hear the sirens go off in your neighborhood, please make to the hospitals.”

Sure enough, when you and your family get down there late on that Friday night, there is a long line, and they’ve got nurses and doctors coming out and pricking fingers and taking blood and putting labels on it. Your wife and your kids are out there, and they take your blood type and they say, “Wait here in the parking lot and if we call your name, you can be dismissed and go home.”

You stand around scared with your neighbors, wondering what in the world is going on, and that this could be the end of the world. Suddenly a young man comes running out of the hospital screaming. He’s yelling a name and waving a clipboard. What? He yells it again! And your son tugs on your jacket and says, “Daddy, that’s me.”

Before you know it, they have grabbed your boy. “Wait a minute, hold it!” And they say, “It’s okay, his blood is clean. His blood is pure. We want to make sure he doesn’t have the disease. We think he has got the right type. Your son could save the world.”

Five agonizing minutes later, out come the doctors and nurses, crying and hugging one another some are even laughing. It’s the first time you have seen anybody laugh in a week, and an old doctor walks up to you and says, “Thank you, sir. Your son’s blood type is perfect. It’s clean, it is pure, and we can make the vaccine.”

As the word begins to spread all across that parking lot full of folks, people are screaming and praying and laughing and crying. But then the gray-haired doctor pulls you and your wife aside and says, “May we see you for a moment? We didn’t realize that the donor would be a minor and we need. .. we need you to sign a consent form.”

You begin to sign and then you see that the number of pints of blood to be taken is empty. “H-h-h-how many pints?” And that is when the old doctor’s smile fades and he says, “We had no idea it would be a little child. We weren’t prepared. We need it all, sir.” “But…but…” “You don’t understand. We are talking about the world here. Please sign.” “But can’t you give him a transfusion?” “If we had clean blood we would. Can you sign? Would you sign?”

In numb silence you do. Then they say, “Would you like to have a moment with him before we begin?”

Can you walk back? You’re asked yourself. Can you walk back to that room where he sits on a table saying, “Daddy? Mommy? What’s going on?” Can you take his hands and say, “Son, your mommy and I love you, and we would never ever let anything happen to you that didn’t just have to be. Do you understand that?” And when that old doctor comes back in and says, “I’m sorry, we’ve got to get started. People all over the world are dying.” Can you leave? Can you walk out while he is saying, “Dad? Mom? Dad? Why why have you forsaken me?”

And then next week, when they have the ceremony to honor your son, and some folks sleep through it, and some folks don’t even come because they go to the lake, and some folks come with a pretentious smile and just pretend to care.

Would you want to jump up and say, “MY SON DIED! DON’T YOU CARE?”

Is that what God is saying? “MY SON DIED. DON’T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I CARE?”

“Father, seeing it from your eyes breaks our hearts. Maybe now we can begin to comprehend the great love you have for us. Amen ”
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
One guy didn't

Three guys were tried for crimes against humanity.
Two guys committed crimes.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys were given government trials.
Two guys had fair trials.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys were whipped and beaten.
Two guys had it coming.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys were given crosses to carry.
Two guys earned their crosses.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys were mocked and spit at along the way.
Two guys cursed and spit back.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys were nailed to crosses.
Two guys deserved it.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys agonized over their abandonment.
Two guys had reason to be abandoned.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys talked while hanging on their crosses.
Two guys argued.
One guy didn’t.

Three guys knew death was coming.
Two guys resisted.
One guy didn’t.

One.
Two.
Three guys died on three crosses.

Three days later.
Two guys remained in their graves.
One guy didn’t.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Do you hear it? What you ask? “Tetelestai” I can hear it even now. It beckons to me through the wind. I can tell you are looking at me strangely.

Let me go back and explain why this word is so pregnant with meaning for me. I had never seen anything remotely like that day. In my time spent with the Legion in Jerusalem; I had helped perform many executions, but this one was different. This day there were three young men condemned to die. The sentence proclaimed on each of them had been death by crucifixion. At the palace, we tied the large crossbeams of rough hewn wood across the backs of each of the condemned. Their arms were outstretched on the wood demonstrating to everyone throughout the city what was going to happen to them. We took “the parade route” through town. We wound down every street to warn the people that the Roman Empire was serious about crime. Everyone knew where we were headed. There was this hill called “The Skull” where we performed the executions. As we wound down the streets, the weight of the beams dug into their back.

Several splinters from the rough wood slivered deep into their skin. The first man hollered curses at the crowd. There was no remorse there, only bitterness. I can still hear his angry voice yelling at the top of his lungs. The bitterness came out with his words and hung around him condemning him yet further. He made no appeals for mercy. I guess he was holding onto the only thing he had left. His strength had been robbed from him in the prisons. I had to prod him with my sword several times to keep him moving.

The second man was almost the opposite of the first. In his tears, he cried out for mercy. He mentioned his child and tried to tell a heart-rending story to the crowd. But all they did was jeer back. I had to wonder about the wisdom of killing this repentant man. But mine was not to wonder, mine was to take orders.

As the third man came by, I heard the whispers and murmurs going through the crowd. I overheard that this was Jesus. I figured this must be the guy that had whipped the city into a frenzy and the reason why we were having this execution so quickly. He didn’t look like the criminal he was supposed to be. Also on his head, there was a wreath of thorns. Each one had dug deeply into his flesh encircling his head with blood. His olive skin was hanging in strips on his back. He was so badly beaten that the pain had to be unbearable. I glanced at him and saw such a peaceful look in his eyes that I couldn’t help but stare. This peace didn’t make sense. Did he not realize that he was about to die one of the most gruesome deaths possible? Did he know that he would die from lack of air as he started to lack the strength to pull himself up by his nail pierced wrists and finally his lungs would fill with liquid? I was absorbed by this man, when he stumbled. The weight of the cross seamed to be unbearable for him. I grabbed one of the young men standing by and shouted at him, “CARRY HIS CROSS!” This man looked like he was going to hesitate, but as I went for my sword he lowered his head in submission. I strapped the cross to him and we continued to march.

After an eternity of marching, we approached the site of execution. The sound of a hammer hitting a nail echoed throughout the countryside as we connected the crossbeams to the posts. As we finished each one we would lift the post up and into the hole in the ground. As we slid the cross with Jesus on it into the ground, he asked for forgiveness for us. For us??

Why in the world did we need forgiving? Even more importantly, how come he didn’t hate us like every other condemned man. Did he not realize that we were killing him? I wandered away with some of the other soldiers while we waited for the condemned to die.

About three hours later, the entire land went dark. This was an unusual dark. It wasn’t like night. It was a stifling darkness. This day was getting weirder and weirder. I just wanted this execution to be over with so I could go my own way.

Then about three hours later, the darkness left and I heard Jesus scream out “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani” I wondered what he was screaming. I heard someone say that he was calling Elijah. But then I heard someone else correct them and say that what he was saying was Hebrew for “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” The cry was with such agony that I can still hear it in my ears. It was not merely a physical agony. It went much deeper. It was the agony of a heart breaking. I recognized that cry as one that I could never quite understand. Finally something that made sense from this man. I was used to seeing a sense of desperation from these men watching their life slip away.

I was thinking about this when he screamed out his final word, “Tetelestai”

It covered the countryside. It was long and drawn out and obviously painful for him to say. Roughly translated that means “It is finished.” But that alone would make sense. Truly it was finished, after all he was dead after he uttered it. But “Tetelestai” means more than that. It means that it is utterly and totally complete and that nothing else could possibly be done to add to it. My curiosity could take it no longer.

I went up to the cross and asked a woman there who this Jesus was. She broke down in tears, and I couldn’t understand her through her sobs. But the man with her explained to me a fanciful story of Jesus. He tried to tell me that Jesus was the Messiah. But I wouldn’t listen. After all, if Jesus was truly the Son of God then we wouldn’t have been able to kill him, right??

Before I left we went ahead and broke the legs of the two other criminals, but we didn’t waste our time with Jesus. He was obviously dead. One of the other soldiers ran a sword through Jesus’ side and blood and water flowed. I had heard of these “tears of the heart” before but I had never seen it. I left that site and tried to go about my day.

Well the next week as I was going around town, I stopped in my tracks as I saw this guy that was in the spitting image of Jesus. I figured it must be his brother or something. But as I stared I saw the nail marks still in his wrists. As I stood there staring, he called me to him. With a slight smile, he said, “I AM He” He had read my mind, I bowed down. He could read my heart as well. He raised my head and told me, “What I had completely finished was paying for your sins. Go and sin no more, for you are a new creation.”

Now as I go everywhere, I hear “Tetelestai” It is God’s way of reminding me that sin is no longer my master. After all, nothing else could have been done. I hear the word echoing in the breeze as the birds sing. It is a subtle sound even in the hubbub of the crowd. Whenever I stop listening with my ears, I can hear it again. “Tetelestai” Can you hear it? Listen closely. There it is. Yes, it is finished. Jesus could have done nothing more to reconcile you with God. That is the great news!! As you hear “Tetelestai”, remember once again that you can be a new creation. The old will be wiped away! Shout it in praise to Him, “Tetelestai.” And when someone asks you what you are saying, you can tell them about this man that died not only for me but for you and them as well. “Tetelestai!”
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
This story is a little different than most in that the story I'm sharing is a true one--and one I lived. It's the story of the fear I allowed to keep me from one of the richest blessings God's given us--that of sharing the Gospel with others.

As we enter a new year, I'm struck by how desperately people need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. There's so much suffering and sorrow--yet as believers, we have an eternal, unshakable hope. May God strengthen each of us to boldly and lovingly share Him with those around us.





Evangelism Is Good…But I Just Can’t Do It
I was blessed to be brought up hearing about Jesus and to find forgiveness in Him at an early age. I was active in serving within the church. Yet at the same time, I could count on one hand the people I’d shared the gospel with—and then, it had been quite poorly.

It’s not that I didn’t want to share—I did. Only I was scared. What if I said the wrong thing and turned someone off? What if they asked a question I couldn’t handle? Besides, I didn’t even have opportunities to share, did I? Naturally reserved as I was, I was hardly the kind of girl to approach a stranger.

Several years ago, though, God began convicting my heart in this area.

One time while out with friends, one of the people in the group stopped and shared the gospel with a homeless man—a man I had walked right by. That interaction got me thinking. Perhaps I had more opportunities than I thought.

Later, I attended the funeral for a man who actively shared the gospel. Each person who came was given a gospel of John to give away. That gospel burned a whole in my pocket for months. I simply couldn’t figure out how to give it away.

I began asking God to show me how to share Him and absorbing the resources He sent. I collected tracts, watched videos, and read books. I watched countless YouTube videos from Ray Comfort (LivingWaters.com). As I prayed more for the lost around me, my heart grew heavier for their salvation. But I still couldn’t bring myself to actually hand out a tract or start a conversation.

I eventually got invited to join a group that was going to a local mall to witness. I started the evening so scared I was convinced the ground would open up and swallow me, but then I got to watch the kind of amazing conversations we were able to have with complete strangers. I wish I could describe the joy of watching the Lord work in someone’s heart as I shared—I couldn’t believe I’d let fear keep me from the incredible privilege of proclaiming the Good News.

Now, many years and hundreds of gospel conversations later, I continue to be amazed at the divine appointments God has, and at how evangelism blesses me, reminding me of God’s salvation, and driving me to my knees and His Word.

As I look back, there are two key truths that helped me—and they are truths I have to keep going back to. The first is the reality of eternity. One analogy that Ray Comfort shared really got to me: that of a burning building. If a building was on fire, I wouldn’t worry about whether I was interrupting someone or if I said it the right way or if they thought I was crazy; I would tell people the building was on fire! Did I not believe that those around me were in even greater danger? A famous atheist put it well: “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”[1]

The second truth is that evangelism isn’t about me. A good deal of my fear and nervousness comes when I fall into thinking I have to have it figured out or get it right. Yet evangelism is about the message, not the messenger.

If you’ve not yet experienced the joy of sharing Jesus with someone, I hope you won’t wait to begin! Evangelism is a huge privilege God offers to each one of His children.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
True meaning of grace

The boy stood with back arched, head cocked back and hands clenched defiantly. “Go ahead, give it to me.” The principal looked down at the young rebel. “How many times have you been here?”

The child sneered rebelliously, “Apparently not enough.” The principal gave the boy a strange look. “And you have been punished each time have you not?” “Yeah, I been punished, if that’s what you want to call it.”

He threw out his small chest, “Go ahead I can take whatever you dish out. I always have.” “And no thought of your punishment enters your head the next time you decide to break the rules does it?” “Nope, I do whatever I want to do. Ain’t nothin’ you people gonna do to stop me either.”

The principal looked over at the teacher who stood nearby. “What did he do this time?” “Fighting. He took little Tommy and shoved his face into the sandbox.” The principal turned to look at the boy, “Why? What did little Tommy do to you?” “Nothin, I didn’t like the way he was lookin’ at me, just like I don’t like the way your lookin’ at me! And if I thought I could do it, I’d shove your face into something.”

The teacher stiffened and started to rise but a quick look from the principal stopped him. He contemplated the child for a moment and then quietly said, “Today my young student, is the day you learn about grace.”

“Grace? Isn’t that what you old people do before you sit down to eat? I don’t need none of your stinkin’ grace.” “Oh but you do.” The principal studied the young mans face and whispered. “Oh yes, you truly do…” The boy continued to glare as the principal continued, “Grace, in its short definition is unmerited favor. You can not earn it, it is a gift and is always freely given. It means that you will not be getting what you so richly deserve.”

The boy looked puzzled. “Your not gonna whup me? You just gonna let me walk?” The principal looked down at the unyielding child. “Yes, I am going to let you walk.”

The boy studied the face of the principal, “No punishment at all? Even though I socked Tommy and shoved his face into the sandbox?”

“Oh, there has to be punishment. What you did was wrong and there are always consequences to our actions. There will be punishment. Grace is not an excuse for doing wrong.”

“I knew it,” Sneered the boy as he held out his hands. “Lets get on with it.” The principal nodded toward the teacher. “Bring me the belt.” The teacher presented the belt to the principal. He carefully folded it in two and then handed it back to the teacher. He looked at the child and said. “I want you to count the blows.” He slid out from behind his desk and walked over to stand directly in front of the young man. He gently reached out and folded the child’s outstretched, expectant hands together and then turned to face the teacher with his own hands outstretched. One quiet word came forth from his mouth. “Begin.”

The belt whipped down on the outstretched hands of the principal. Crack! The young man jumped ten feet in the air. Shock registered across his face, “One” he whispered. Crack! “Two.” His voice raised an octave. Crack! “Three…” He couldn’t believe this. Crack! “Four.” Big tears welled up in the eyes of the rebel. “OK stop! That’s enough. Stop!” Crack! Came the belt down on the callused hands of the principal. Crack! The child flinched with each blow, tears beginning to stream down his face. Crack! Crack! “No please”, the former rebel begged, “Stop, I did it, I’m the one who deserves it. Stop! Please. Stop…” Still the blows came, Crack! Crack! One after another. Finally it was over. The principal stood with sweat glistening across his forehead and beads trickling down his face. Slowly he knelt down. He studied the young man for a second and then his swollen hands reached out to cradle the face of the weeping child. Then the words were softly uttered from……(may the reader discern)… “Grace…”
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Empty Eggs

The Rev. Harry Pritchett, Junior, is rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta. His church includes specific ministries for the poor, for street people, for college students. It is Dr. Pritchett who called my attention to a boy named Philip.

He was nine – in a Sunday School class of eight-year-olds. Eight-year-olds can be cruel.

The third-graders did not welcome Philip to their group. Not just because he was older. He was “different.” He suffered from Down’s syndrome and its obvious manifestations: facial characteristics, slow responses, symptoms of retardation.

One Sunday after Easter the Sunday school teacher gathered some of those plastic eggs – the kind in which some ladies pantyhose are packaged. Plastic eggs which pull apart in the middle.

The Sunday school teacher gave one of these plastic eggs to each child.

On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover for himself some symbol of “new life” and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside his egg. They would then open their eggs one by one, and each youngster would explain how his find was a symbol of “new life.”

So…

The youngsters gathered around on the appointed day and put their eggs on a table, and the teacher began to open them.

One child found a flower. All the children “oohed” and “aahed” at the lovely symbol of new life.

In another was a butterfly. “Beautiful,” the girls said. And it’s not easy for an eight-year-old to say “beautiful.”

Another egg was opened to reveal a rock. Some of the children laughed.

“That’s crazy!” one said. “How is a rock supposed to be like new life?!?”

Immediately the boy spoke up and said, “That’s mine. I knew everybody would get flowers and leaves and butterflies and all that stuff, so I got a rock to be different.”

Everyone laughed.

The teacher opened the last one, and there was nothing inside.

“That’s not fair!” someone said. “That’s stupid!” said another.

Teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Philip. Looking up he said, “It’s mine. I did do it. It’s empty. I have new life because the tomb is empty.”

The class fell silent.

From that day on Philip became part of the group. They welcomed him. Whatever had made him different was never mentioned again.

Philip’s family had known he would not have a long life; just too many things wrong with the tiny body. That summer, overcome with infection, Philip died.

On the day of his funeral nine eight-year-old boys and girls confronted the reality of death and marched up to the altar – not with flowers.

Nine children with their Sunday school teacher placed on the casket of their friend their gift of love – AN EMPTY EGG.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The birdcage story

A man was on the side of the road with a large birdcage. A boy noticed that the cage was full of birds of many kinds. “Where did you get those birds?” he asked.

“Oh, all over the place,” the man replied. “I lure them with crumbs, pretend I’m their friend then when they are close, I net them and shove them into my cage.”

“And what are you going to do with them now?”

The man grinned, “I’m going to prod them with sticks, and get them really mad so they fight and kill each other. Those that survive, I will kill. None will escape.”

The boy looked steadily at the man. What made him do such things? He looked into the cruel, hard eyes. Then he looked at the birds, defenseless, without hope.

“Can I buy those birds?” the boy asked.

The man hid a smile, aware that he could be on to a good thing if he played his cards right. “Well,” he said hesitantly, “The cage is pretty expensive, and I spent a lot of time collecting these birds, I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll let you have the lot, birds, cage and all for ten pounds and that jacket you’re wearing.”

The boy paused, ten pounds was all he had, and the jacket was new and very special, in fact it was his prized possession. Slowly, he took out the ten pounds and handed it over, then even more slowly he took off his jacket, gave it one last look then handed that over too.

And then (well, you’ve guessed it) he opened the door and let the birds go free.

The Enemy of the world, Satan, was on the side of life’s road with a very large cage. The man coming towards him noticed that it was crammed full of people of every kind, young, old, from every race and nation. “Where did you get these people?” the man asked.

“Oh, from all over the world,” Satan replied. “I lure them with drink, drugs, lust, lies, anger, hate, love of money and all manner of things. I pretend I’m their friend, out to give them a good time, then when I’ve hooked them, into the cage they go.”

“And what are you going to do with them now?” asked the man.

Satan grinned. “I’m going to prod them, provoke them, get them to hate and destroy each other; I’ll stir up racial hatred, defiance of law and order; I’ll make people bored, lonely, dissatisfied, confused and restless. It’s easy. People will always listen to what I offer them and (what’s better) blame God for the outcome!”

“And then what?” the man asked.

“Those who do not destroy themselves, I will destroy. None will escape me.”

The man stepped forward. “Can I buy these people from you?” he asked.

Satan snarled, “Yes, but it will cost you your life.”

So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid for your release, your freedom from Satan’s trap, with His own life, on the cross at Calvary. The door is open, and anyone, whom Satan has deceived and caged, can be set free.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Come follow Me

Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug.

He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a very kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about an incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did.

“I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer, “but I simply cannot understand this claim that God became man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

On Christmas Eve, his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d much rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier.

“If we must have a Christmas,” he reflected, “it’s nice to have a white one.”

He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snow balls at his living room window.

When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window.

I can’t let those poor creatures lie there and freeze, he thought. But how can I help them?

Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light. But the birds didn’t come in.

Food will bring them in, he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm, lighted barn.

“They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety.”

Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow.

“Now I understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why you had to do it.”
 
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