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beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
How Grief And Sorrow Birthed A Vision of Giving

Here is a ministry that proves beauty can come from ashes.

Ashes to Beauty
A.W. Tozer wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has wounded him deeply,” but in this article, we’ll see it as, “God cannot use a man greatly until He has wounded him deeply,” and deep are the wounds that death often brings. The Word of God cuts like a doubled-edged sword, but it cuts in order to heal, not kill. It brings life, not death, but Jesus’ death brought us life, and sometimes death brings us new life, for example when we lose a loved one.

We’re not quite the same person anymore, but God has a history of bringing beauty out of ashes, and such is the case with Michael and Randi Kilbourne. After Brandon Kilbourne lost their son in August 2017, they grieved for a time, but then, they began to think of ways that could bring healing to their lives. What they discovered was healing came through helping others. It is from this simple statement (to help others) that Vision of Giving was born.

Vision of Giving is a nonprofit benefactor created by Michael and Randi Kilbourne, and it’s designed to support missions that small, local churches chooses to support. They provide financial and moral support for those churches which have little of either. Vision of Giving provides support to churches for their local efforts and the missions they choose that directly impact the local community. Vision of Giving, inspired by grieving parents Michael and Randi Kilbourne, proves that suffering is never wasted, and sometimes, the suffering of one can bring comfort to others.

Broken before God
Our church has a prison ministry, and what I’ve discovered by experience is that God cannot fix what is first not broken. That is, until a person is humbled, they are resisting God‘s grace (James 4:6), so when some of these men confess their sins, their faults, and their brokenness, they can be nearer to God than before.

The Psalmist wrote, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18), and nearly every one to a man agree that they do want to be nearer to the Lord. Many of these men have already been crushed by the consequences of their actions. They regret what they did and now they have come to the end of themselves. Their backs are now against the wall, or more precisely, are surrounded by four walls, but, it’s only when their broken that God’s Spirit can come in and penetrates the stony hearts.

By His Spirit, He creates a new heart and new desire for God (2nd Cor 5:17-20). Feeling crushed lately? It’s good to know because “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted,” so if that’s you, you’re nearer to God than most of us are. Rarely does prosperity draw us closer to God, so what if suffering brought us into a closer relationship with God, and He used your suffering to become more holy as He is holy? It seems that afflictions can create in us a renewed desire to live in obedience to God and His Word. But it can also create a new zeal in us, to be more on mission for Christ.

Compassion
The word compassion comes from a compound of two words: Com (with, or together) and passion (suffer with, to feel pity), so when we see people without Christ, we should be moved with compassion, knowing their ultimate destination without Christ. That should move our hearts to action. What price are you willing to pay to help rescue a person’s soul from an eternal separation from God? Are you willing to be scorned, rejected, name-called, and insulted to the nth degree for the sake of Christ?

For others, their suffering experience became an evangelistic tool for Christ. That’s what birthed Vision of Giving. They strive to make Christ known to the local community, and the best way to reach people in the community is through people who live in that community, and that’s the local church. They desire to give the same comfort to others that God’s given them (2 Cor 1:3-4). These prisoners can show the world that where there is great sin, there is a greater Savior. Where sins have done their damage, grace abounds all the more. That’s because, where there is much forgiven, there is much love (Luke 7:47)!

On Mission
The founders of Vision of Giving are traveling all across the US this year. It is their intention to continue to visit and support the local church’s mission in the local communities they reside in. These include benevolences, food pantries, sponsoring kids to camp, delivering food to firefighters, or whatever the local church sees as their mission field.

These are but a few of the examples of the efforts of Vision of Giving. Their stated purpose: “Following our Christian values, Vision of Giving uses the ‘Feed My Sheep’ philosophy in our efforts to help others,” so they’ve been working with local churches across the US to enable them to reach out to people that need help the most. Essentially, Vision of Giving is a traveling charity that goes directly to the local community church so they can make a positive impact in the lives of that community. There are no applications or demanding paperwork necessary to qualify. Each church is treated individually and with respect to their local communities.

How Does it Work?
How does Vision of Giving determine who to help and with what resources? First of all, they don’t seek to strengthen already strong churches because they already have sufficient resources, but rather, they seek to strengthen rural or small town churches that don’t have many or any resources, but they leave it up to the local churches.

These churches nominate the mission within their membership to receive the gift. It is up to them to decide what they want to do for the community. During the onsite visit to the church, Vision of Giving joins hands in a joint effort to support the missions that the local church chooses, and a mission which is based upon the greatest needs of the local community. Vision of Giving thrives on the positive impact they provide in helping those in need. That is their purpose. They enable and empower churches to reach those who otherwise might not receive help, and they do this by providing resources for smaller churches that have little or no resources of their own. In short, they want to help the church be the church (Matt 25:35-36; James 1:27).

Conclusion
As we have read, the great suffering this family has endured is paying dividends today and will be paying dividends into eternity. They are sowing into the kingdom the resources that Christ has provided for them. If your church has few resources for missions, please contact them today. My only purpose was to reveal that Vision of Giving is giving to others with no obligations or strings, and their sole purpose is to ease the pain and suffering of others; or to give others the same comfort that God Himself gave them. Whatever that looks like depends on the church and the community. But giving has always been the way of God (John 3:16). For more information, please email Vision of Giving at: [email protected] or visit their website, VisionofGiving.org. Neither I nor the church received any compensation for writing this.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Even If

Your heart is breaking
Your mind is unclear
Your tired and restless and full of fear
Come to me-

even if
You say words you shouldn’t
You don’t do things you should
You doubt and try to change,
but never think you could.
Come to me-

even if
You thought an evil thought
You thought the thought again
You turned the thought to action and now your bound in sin.
Come to me-

even if
You say “But I knew better, I belong to you”
Child, I am not surprised by anything you do.
I made you in my image I fashioned you with care,
When you cried tears into your pillow, remember I was there.
I have always been and always will I be.

For even when you do those things, you still belong to me.
Even if you do these things, Oh child, don’t you see?
Even if, even if, you still can come to me.

There is a secret place I have created where you may seek my face,
this place I have for you is called “The Father’s Warm Embrace”

And when I have held you in my arms and rocked you, listening closely to your fears,
I will place you on my lap and wipe away your tears.

Then, I will smile. A smile to let you know I am pleased.
For when you hurt and when you sinned, still- you came to me.
So, do not draw back from me my child,
I am Abba Father to you, remember in my word I said -Behold,

I make all things new.
I will forgive you, heal you, restore you,

I will shower you with grace.
I will never turn my back to you, but you will see my face.
On your journey home, when I see you I will run…..
Even if, Even if, My child, even if just come.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
In the stillness of the night
As I lay in bed and try to sleep
I remember how I blew the fight
And all Your commands I didn’t keep

I tried, O God, I tried
To strengthen my soul against the dark
I felt so confident that I would abide…
But when temptation came, I had missed Your mark

But then as I slept that night
You came to me in a dream
You said to me, “Try as you may, try as you might,
You will fail, despite what it may seem,

It is not your job to see you through,
It is not your job to feel strong
I just want one thing for you to do:
Give Me what you tried to do all along”

So that morning as I awoke
And I knew my sleep was worth its while
For as I remembered the words that You spoke
I gave to You my temptions and my trials

I finally admited I was too weak
To face the day without making a mistake
So to You I lay my life so meek
And I asked You that me You would not forsake

Day by day you guide me on
And my strength I get from You alone
All my battles have been won
For in Your strength I have been sewn
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
“Remove far from me vanity and lies.”

Proverbs 30:8

“O my God, be not far from me.”

— Psalm 38:21

Here we have two great lessons—what to deprecate and what to supplicate. The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. As there is the most heat nearest to the sun, so there is the most happiness nearest to Christ. No Christian enjoys comfort when his eyes are fixed on vanity—he finds no satisfaction unless his soul is quickened in the ways of God. The world may win happiness elsewhere, but he cannot. I do not blame ungodly men for rushing to their pleasures.

Why should I? Let them have their fill. That is all they have to enjoy. A converted wife who despaired of her husband was always very kind to him, for she said, “I fear that this is the only world in which he will be happy, and therefore I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can in it.” Christians must seek their delights in a higher sphere than the insipid frivolities or sinful enjoyments of the world.

Vain pursuits are dangerous to renewed souls. We have heard of a philosopher who, while he looked up to the stars, fell into a pit; but how deeply do they fall who look down. Their fall is fatal. No Christian is safe when his soul is slothful, and his God is far from him. Every Christian is always safe as to the great matter of his standing in Christ, but he is not safe as regards his experience in holiness, and communion with Jesus in this life.

Satan does not often attack a Christian who is living near to God. It is when the Christian departs from his God, becomes spiritually starved, and endeavours to feed on vanities, that the devil discovers his vantage hour. He may sometimes stand foot to foot with the child of God who is active in his Master's service, but the battle is generally short: he who slips as he goes down into the Valley of Humiliation, every time he takes a false step invites Apollyon to assail him. O for grace to walk humbly with our God!
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Many things have been done – or words were said
That pierced the heart – like a bullet of lead
And though the event came – and soon was gone
The sting of it all – lingered on and on.

Dwelling on the past – though time has marched on
Will make us miserable – no mood for a song,
Because peace and joy – Satan is stealing
Thus, he alone prospers – if we hold an ill-feeling.

We must forgive others – in a way that is right:
Leaving their flaws – for only God’s sight.
Sometimes it’s impossible – to humanly do
So we call on the Holy Spirit – to see us through.

When the Lord forgives us – our slate is wiped clean.
God doesn’t hold grudges – or see us as mean.
Yes, He gives us a chance – for a whole new start.
He holds no memory – of our mistakes in his heart.

If we can’t forgive – like the Lord intended
We have a miserable life – which can’t be mended.
Because an unforgiving heart – is real devastation
And forgiving completely – is self-preservation.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The Fathers Heart And A Nation’s Future

Why are so many more dads missing from homes today? What has it cost their children and the nation?

Hearts of the Fathers
Why would God say that He would strike the earth with a curse if the hearts of the fathers would not be turned toward their children? I am referring to Malachi 4:6 which said that “he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” The word Malachi uses for “turn” is “shuwb,” which means “to return, or turn back,” and in this case, he will cause many to turn back to God.

This comes just after God’s thunderous warning, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Mal 4:5), so who was this “he?” It was John the Baptist who was “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight” (Matt 3:3). Luke 1:16-17 writes that “he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:16-17). Jesus affirms this in Matthew 11:13-14, where He says of John, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”

Whose Children are These?
Who were these “children” that Malachi and Luke referred to? Were they the children of Israel? Were these God’s children? Or, does Malachi refer to the children of our day and to the fathers living today? Malachi is not speaking to this generation, although the duality of what he says can apply in any age, and his words seem appropriate for our day, but Malachi was giving a prophecy of who would precede the coming of the Lord.

John the Baptist would come in the spirit of Elijah and is believed by many to be the very last of the Old Testament prophets, and even though he came during the New Testament period, he was a prophet that linked the Old Testament to the New Testament. John the Baptist, being in the spirit of Elijah, was turning some of the children of Abraham to the Lord.

John preached repentance or a “turning” from their sins and “turning to” God, and many thousands in Judea did. Speaking in the same context, Jesus asked, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates”(Matt 11:16), and “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn” (Matt 11:17). The fathers of this generation heard the gospel but “did not mourn” their sins and repent and be saved.

Only after their rejection of the good news did Jesus began to pronounce “woes” on them. When you read about a woe mentioned in the Bible, it refers to a judgment of God. It’s not that they did not hear Jesus’ words, but they did not believe, and since they did not believe, they did not turn or repent. For a time, John the Baptist had a powerful influence among the Jews, respected even among some of the Jewish leaders, and long after his death, John the Baptist’s disciples were still around (Acts 19:2-7). Only later, these “children’s hearts” (many of John’s disciples) did turn or repent before God. They had heard of Christ but not yet received the Holy Spirit, so why would Malachi decree utter destruction on the land if the father’s hearts were not turned to their children and the children toward their fathers?

Utter Destruction
The word “turn” is closely related to repentance, which means to turn away from our sins and turn to God, but turning away from sin is not the precise definition. Repentance is “to change one’s mind,” but it is God Who changes the mind or heart (2 Cor 5:17). If God does not changer the heart, that heart will never turn to God because we know that God grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25), but the Bible says true repentance will be visibly displayed by deeds (Matt 3:8; Acts 26:20).

As for the curse mentioned by Malachi, God did strike the Jewish nation with a curse, and not only was Jerusalem destroyed during the Siege of Jerusalem, millions of Jews died when the Romans armies swelled in taking Judea. Even though it began earlier, it came to a dramatic conclusion in 70 AD when Jerusalem and much of the surrounding area was destroyed and about 1.1 million (non-combat) Jews die, but the worst thing was the temple was burned, and finally, destroyed. That certainly looks like a curse to me.

Earthly Fathers
What happens when father’s hearts are turned away from their children? Just read these stunning statistics from 2006 from a study done by the Department of Health and Human Services. [1]


A whopping 42% of female-headed households with children were poor, compared with 8% of families with children who had a father in the home.

Girls without fathers in their lives are 2.5 times more likely to get pregnant and over twice as likely to commit suicide.

Boys without fathers in their lives are 63% more likely to run away from home and 37% more likely to use drugs.

Boys and girls without father involvement are twice as likely to drop out of school, twice as likely to go to jail, and nearly four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.

Even when fathers are living with the family, the average American father spends a little over seven minutes of uninterrupted time per week with his children, while the family watches TV for nearly 35 hours a week! What happened to the days when we talked to our children or shot hoops or played catch? Sadly, most of the TV programming is tuned into talent shows, reality shows, or worse, violence-filled or sexually explicit or suggestive movies. Even the old American tradition of eating together as a family is disappearing. Today, the average American family has a meal together less than twice a week.

Conclusion
Perhaps the reason that they say history repeats itself is because we don’t learn from it. If fathers spend less than 10 minutes a week engaged in conversation with their children, it seems likely that their children will do the very same thing with their own children; perhaps spending even less time with them. The foundation of any nation starts with the family, but also, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34). When families break down, nations are weakened, so the best we can do is to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6), but “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come
knowledge and understanding.

He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those
whose walk is blameless.

Proverbs 2:6,7 NIV

__________________

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:6-10 NIV

__________________

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:5 NIV

__________________

Thanks be unto God for His wonderful gift:
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God
is the object of our faith; the only faith
that saves is faith in Him.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
“O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face ... because we have sinned against thee.”

Daniel 9:8

A deep sense and clear sight of sin, its heinousness, and the punishment which it deserves, should make us lie low before the throne. We have sinned as Christians. Alas! that it should be so. Favoured as we have been, we have yet been ungrateful: privileged beyond most, we have not brought forth fruit in proportion. Who is there, although he may long have been engaged in the Christian warfare, that will not blush when he looks back upon the past?

As for our days before we were regenerated, may they be forgiven and forgotten; but since then, though we have not sinned as before, yet we have sinned against light and against love—light which has really penetrated our minds, and love in which we have rejoiced. Oh, the atrocity of the sin of a pardoned soul! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply compared with the sin of one of God's own elect ones, who has had communion with Christ and leaned his head upon Jesus’ bosom. Look at David! Many will talk of his sin, but I pray you look at his repentance, and hear his broken bones, as each one of them moans out its dolorous confession! Mark his tears, as they fall upon the ground, and the deep sighs with which he accompanies the softened music of his harp! We have erred: let us, therefore, seek the spirit of penitence.

Look, again, at Peter! We speak much of Peter's denying his Master. Remember, it is written, “He wept bitterly.” Have we no denials of our Lord to be lamented with tears? Alas! these sins of ours, before and after conversion, would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire if it were not for the sovereign mercy which has made us to differ, snatching us like brands from the burning. My soul, bow down under a sense of thy natural sinfulness, and worship thy God. Admire the grace which saves thee—the mercy which spares thee—the love which pardons thee!
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
The suicide's question


TV bon vivant Anthony Bourdaine committed suicide last week, just days after fashion mogul Kate Spade did the same. The same week the Center for Disease Control issued a study about suicide, which noted that taking one’s own life is the 10th leading cause of death and that the number of suicides in half of America’s states is up 30% or more since 1999. This called to mind a young man whom I had come to know pretty well.

He was a student at a Lutheran university. He had always struggled with depression, but then life started adding its blows. His father, whom he was very close to, died suddenly, and he couldn’t shake the grief. His mother remarried; he couldn’t stand his stepfather; and they were always fighting. He had a girlfriend, but her family turned her against him. On top of all of this, he felt under a lot of pressure to do something he really didn’t want to do. He started feeling suicidal.

And yet, on the surface, the young man seemed to have everything going for him. He had money. He had a secure career path to a prestigious, well-paying job. He had lots of friends. He was popular. He was at the top of the social order. He was, in fact, a Royal.

His name was Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. I got to know him so well because every year for some 20 years I taught the play that William Shakespeare wrote about him in my “Introduction to Literature” class.

His most famous lines are a meditation on suicide (Act III. scene i. lines 1749-1775). Is it better “to be,” or “not to be”? In other words, is it better to exist or not exist? That, indeed, is the question–for suicides and also for everyone.

As Hamlet thinks about this question, contemplating all the bad things that happen in life, he decides that he would really prefer “not to be.” Death would “end the heartache.” And he could bring it on. A bare dagger could give him peace. “To die–to sleep. To sleep–perchance to dream” (III.i.1756-1757). The closest thing we experience to death is sleep. And yet, he realizes sleep does not take away our existence. We dream. What if there is life after death? ) “Ay, there’s the rub” (III.i.1758).

Hamlet begins considering what he learned in church and at Wittenberg University. If there is life after death, he cannot escape his existence after all. “Not to be” is not an option. And after death comes judgment.
Earlier in the play, Hamlet laments, “O. . .that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! (I. i. 335-336). He knows from his Catechism that the Everlasting God in His Law as set down in Scripture forbids murder, which includes self-murder.


Roman Catholicism teaches that suicides are lost eternally, since they die in a state of mortal sin without the possibility of repenting. Though other Christians agree, Luther did not, saying that suicides are victims of the Devil. Hamlet, who worries about how the Devil is trying to “abuse” him (II. ii. 1673-1678), does not really believe that either, as we see later when his girlfriend, Ophelia, actually does (apparently) commit suicide. But Hamlet has other reasons for fearing God’s judgment.

Hamlet realizes that he must consider his question in light of eternity. If he takes his own life, he may not escape his troubles; rather, he might bring upon himself troubles far greater in Hell. “The dread of something after death. . . puzzles the will/And makes us rather bear those ills we have/ Than fly to others that we know not of” (III.i.1771, 1774-1775).

Basically, Hamlet decides “to be.” He rejects suicide. His main reason is that God says, Don’t do it. Hamlet wishes that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon against self-slaughter, but He has. So Hamlet bears those ills he has.

Later, Hamlet’s reluctant act of obedience blossoms into a more positive faith. Hamlet’s life is saved by an uncanny series of unlikely coincidences. He realizes that “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will” (V.ii.3659-3660). “There’s a special providence in/ the fall of a sparrow” (V.ii.3863-3854), and this divinity, this providence, is guiding his life.

The Prince of Denmark comes to realize that Heaven has made him its “scourge and minister” (III.iv. 2578) to bring his father’s murderer to justice–notice the doctrine of vocation–but he now stops his “deep plots” and his agonizing. He will let events unfold, trusting in God’s providence to bring about the outcome and to use him according to His will:

. . ..there’s a special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be
not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come
the readiness is all. (V.ii.3853-3856)

I once had an actual student in my literature class who told me that she had been contemplating suicide, but that Hamlet talked her out of it.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.”

2 Timothy 1:9

The apostle uses the perfect tense and says, “Who hath saved us.” Believers in Christ Jesus are saved. They are not looked upon as persons who are in a hopeful state, and may ultimately be saved, but they are already saved. Salvation is not a blessing to be enjoyed upon the dying bed, and to be sung of in a future state above, but a matter to be obtained, received, promised, and enjoyed now. The Christian is perfectly saved in God's purpose; God has ordained him unto salvation, and that purpose is complete.

He is saved also as to the price which has been paid for him: “It is finished” was the cry of the Savior ere he died. The believer is also perfectly saved in his covenant head, for as he fell in Adam, so he lives in Christ. This complete salvation is accompanied by a holy calling. Those whom the Savior saved upon the cross are in due time effectually called by the power of God the Holy Spirit unto holiness: they leave their sins; they endeavor to be like Christ; they choose holiness, not out of any compulsion, but from the stress of a new nature, which leads them to rejoice in holiness just as naturally as aforetime they delighted in sin.

God neither chose them nor called them because they were holy, but he called them that they might be holy, and holiness is the beauty produced by his workmanship in them. The excellencies which we see in a believer are as much the work of God as the atonement itself. Thus is brought out very sweetly the fulness of the grace of God.

Salvation must be of grace, because the Lord is the author of it: and what motive but grace could move him to save the guilty? Salvation must be of grace, because the Lord works in such a manner that our righteousness is for ever excluded. Such is the believer's privilege—a present salvation; such is the evidence that he is called to it—a holy life.
 

beensetfree

Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
Five Powerful Names Of God

God has many names, and they are descriptive of His attributes, so here are five of the most powerful names of God.

JEHOVAH-JIREH or Yahweh Yireh
Genesis 22:14 “So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Abraham and Isaac were going to make a sacrifice unto the Lord, only Isaac didn’t know he was the intended sacrifice, so when the wood and fire were gather, Isaac asked, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering,” (Gen 22:7), and Abraham told Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen 22:8), and God did provide for a sacrifice when the ram caught in the thickets was provided by God.

When God was about to sacrifice his son of promise, the angel of the Lord stayed his hand (Gen 22:11) and saw that Abraham’s believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness, knowing that He could raise Isaac up from the dead if it came to that (Heb 11:19), so that’s why “Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (Gen 22:14).

And near that same spot several thousands of years later, God would provide for a sacrifice for all who would believe in Him (John 3:16-17), because in the last part of Genesis 22:14, where it says, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided,” in the Hebrew is, “he will be seen,” and seen He was on Calvary’s hill. And yes, on that mount, a supreme sacrifice was provided.

YAHWEH-ROHI – The Lord Our Shepherd
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

The Lord Jesus Christ is called the Good Shepherd, so compared to Christ, I am simply an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd. The Hebrew word used here for shepherd is “ra`ah” which means to pasture (from which we get the word “pastor”), but it means to “tend, graze, feed,” or be “ruler,” or “teacher” of. That is exactly what God does in Jesus Christ, Who is the Head of the Church. If not led to green pastures, sheep will eat until they destroy the roots, so the Good Shepherd ensures that His flock is regularly fed, and that diet consists of the Word of God, the Bible, then the sheep of the Good Shepherd “shall not want.”


El SHADDIA – The Mighty God
Genesis 17:1 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.”

The name God uses for Himself in this passage is the name EL Shaddia, which is Hebrew for “almighty, most powerful,” and of course that fits God perfectly because God is omnipotent. When you pray, think about one of His names, like El Shaddia. That should give you confidence because you pray to a God Who can move heaven and earth to make sure one sinner is saved. When God used this name for Himself, Abraham “fell on his face”(Gen 17:3), knowing He is all-powerful. To Abraham, this is the most reverential, respectful, and humble position for him to be in when praying to God. We pray to a God that is Almighty and All-Powerful, so why not fall before Him, in physically possible?

YHWH / YAHWEH or HAYAH – I AM THAT I AM
Exodus 3:14 “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.”


When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, he told him He was about to bring Israel out of Egypt and deliver them from their bondage in slavery, but Moses asked God, what “if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them” (Ex 3:13)? God answered, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you” (Ex 3:14b). In other words, God told Moses to say that “I AM THAT I AM” sent me, or in the Hebrew “Yahweh” which means “to be, to exist” or the “Self-Existent One.” “I am, and there is none beside me” (Isaiah 45:6). This means that God has no cause and has always been.

The verb “to be” means that He has no need of anything outside of Himself to keep existing; an existence different from all other existence. He has always been, is now, and will always be. It means that God is uncaused and there is nothing else that has always existed without a cause except for Yahweh or the Great I AM.

ELOHIM – The Creator, Mighty, Strong God
Genesis 17:7 “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

It is very interesting that God revealed to Abraham two of His attributes in one conversation. First God says that He is “God Almighty” (Gen 17:1), and later He says that He “will establish [His] covenant” with Abraham, but what does God mean by saying, I will “be God to you?” It means, He will literally be the “Creator, Mighty, Strong God” that spoke the universe and the worlds into existence to Abraham. This name for God is plural and reflects the Trinity and the Plurality of God but also the different workings of each Person of the Trinity. The God Who created all things, how will He not give us all things (Rom 8:32)? Is anything too hard or impossible for the One Who created everything?

Conclusion
If you don’t know all these names of God, it doesn’t matter, but it does matter if you know the One Name that is above all other names, and that is Jesus Christ. He said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44), but “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus as the Good Shepherd is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), and not “a way” or one of many ways. He is the One and Only Way into the Kingdom and the only name by which you can be saved. If you reject Him as Savior, then He will be your Judge (Rev 20:11-15; John 3:18).
 

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“He humbled himself.”

Philippians 2:8

Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart. We need daily to learn of him. See the Master taking a towel and washing his disciples’ feet! Follower of Christ, wilt thou not humble thyself? See him as the Servant of servants, and surely thou canst not be proud! Is not this sentence the compendium of his biography, “He humbled himself”? Was he not on earth always stripping off first one robe of honour and then another, till, naked, he was fastened to the cross, and there did he not empty out his inmost self, pouring out his life-blood, giving up for all of us, till they laid him penniless in a borrowed grave? How low was our dear Redeemer brought!

How then can we be proud? Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed; see the thorn-crown; mark his scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and his whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in his outward frame; hear the thrilling shriek, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it: if you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know him. You were so lost that nothing could save you but the sacrifice of God's only begotten.

Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you, bow yourself in lowliness at his feet. A sense of Christ's amazing love to us has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt. May the Lord bring us in contemplation to Calvary, then our position will no longer be that of the pompous man of pride, but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much because much has been forgiven him. Pride cannot live beneath the cross. Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.
 

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God’s Will For America: Nationalism and the Gospel

Many months ago, James White announced that he was going to dialogue with a Muslim Imam in a church hall one weekday evening. Tickets could be reserved ahead of time. The event would be free, but the organizers wanted to have a sense of how many, and who, they could expect. Both Muslims and Christians applied for tickets and filled up the hall.

Muslim-Christian dialogue and debate is White’s specialty. He speaks Arabic, knows the Koran backward and forward, and is able to deftly, and intelligently get to the heart of the difference between these two religions.

Twitter, of course, because the event was publicized, spun out of control. White was accused of being a lover of Islam and betraying all Christians everywhere. From Twitter the remnant Christian blogosphere took up the cause, handing it fully and finally to Christian talk radio. One evening I found myself listening to the censorious tones of Janet Mefferd denouncing James White. He was, she said, compromising the gospel. He had no business participating in such an event in a church building. It sent entirely the wrong message about Islam.

In fact, Mefford contended, Islam is one of the most menacing forces currently bent on destroying America and the West. White’s partner in dialogue, she insisted, had a “track record of espousing a radical form of Islamic supremacism” and “an ideology that is a threat not only to Christians but,” and this is the telling line, “to our very way of life.” At the very least White should not debate and talk with this particular Imam until that person had proven himself to have no desire to destroy this great nation.

That’s interesting, I thought. Perhaps the event should have been held in a neutral location. But as Mefford spread her vitriol out in every direction, dismissing outright White’s stated desire of winning Muslims to Christ through the clear proclamation of the gospel, I was curious to hear her address the issue of Islam in America in a more general way. And America’s place in the world. And border control. And the wall.

Which is where we are. If you are an Evangelical in America today, whatever the word might mean to you, it won’t be very long before you’re talking politics, tangling your political inclinations together with your theological ones, partaking of recriminatory Twitter “conversations” with other Evangelicals. Theology and politics pour forth in equal measures. Immigration is jumbled against justification. The spirituality of the president hangs as a cloud over questions of evangelism and ecclesiology. If you’re talking theology, it will only be a minute and a half before you’re talking politics.

This reality has had a slow but persistent dawning. R. Marie Griffith, in her comprehensive, albeit one-sided tome, Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics, examines the deep divisions endured by Christians over a tumultuous century. She painstakingly documents how Protestants and Catholics, both on the left and the right, consistently enjoined theological war in the arena of politics. The left, though Griffith doesn’t exactly admit this, doggedly advanced progressive social goals, transforming the American consciousness over a century from vaguely “Christian” to “sex positive” and “affirming.” Beginning with Margaret Sanger and ending up with Gene Robinson, Griffith describes a relentless assault by progressive Christianity on the moral and theological foundations of the church, and by extension the culture, an assault that, in the end, won.

And what of the conservative Christian in each feverish decade? Chapter by chapter Griffith illuminates the theological and political confusion of conservatives. Always on the defensive, often flat-footed, and in the case of post- Civil War racism, just plain wrong, the Christian Right floundered. Eventually the withering assault of progressivism saw the dissipation of the moral bedrock of American life. And somewhere along the way, conservative Evangelicals traded trust in the gospel for a heavy and fearful reliance on politics and cultural engagement.

It all culminated in 2016, cataclysmically, with the enthusiastic, prophetically christened election of Donald Trump. A century of frustrated, exhausted loss in every realm—cultural and political–a majority of Evangelicals* chucked it all and went with a candidate who, two decades earlier, they would have abhorred.

At what point along the way did the conversation stop being Christian and just become political? I don’t want to say definitively, but I expect it might have been when Donald Trump claimed to be “the best Christian” as he did in an interview during the campaign. As a lifelong Presbyterian, nobody loved the Bible more than he did, so he said. This nakedly political appeal to the Christian Right, who was fed up anyway, seemed to soothe and pacify enough consciences that the election could be blamed on the “evangelical vote,” and became the fault of all Christians everywhere, even the ones who didn’t vote for Mr. Trump and weren’t taken in. But what choice did anyone have? The other candidate, whom Griffith breathlessly lyricized as a lifelong and faithful Methodist, just as cynically employed the language of the Evangelical.
The peculiar political “triumph” of Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton is a symptom of the ever shrinking theological rigor that the average Evangelical applies to ordinary daily living. Church is largely about the special effects and apparent relevancy of the pastor. Is he promising the good life now? Well, then his building will be full enough. Is he preaching a gospel of suffering? He probably isn’t looking at a fantastic Average Sunday Attendance. Ask the random self-identifying “Evangelical” on the street what the gospel is and he won’t be able to tell you.


The church faces many extraordinary crises in this perilous age. But chief among them has to be the abyssal worldly divisions between political left and political right finally and fully worming themselves into an ever-fracturing Evangelicalism. For every Christian, no matter the conversation, no matter the hour and the day, the very gospel is at stake. Whether you are anxious about issues of race, or anxious about the security of the border, or anxious about abortion and judges, or anxious about the safety of women, or anxious about what appalling thing Mr. Trump will say next, every issue collides with every other issue. One misstep, however small, especially on Twitter, guarantees you will never sleep again, at least until someone else draws the ire of the mob.

This moment is so dangerous not because one segment of American Christians has twisted the gospel together with politics, but because both sides have. On the one hand, the flag bedecks the Christian Trump fanatic. On the other, a bundle of hashtags festoons the Christian #NeverTrumper. Both sides claim to have God on their side. Both are convinced the other side has betrayed the very gospel of Jesus Christ.

James White’s run-in with Janet Mefferd illustrated for me tragedy of this moment. Neither the right nor the left has a true, full-hearted trust in the Christian gospel to do what it promises—save some. Indeed, the purposes for which Christ came do not seem to compel Christians depressed and anxious about their place in this country and America’s place in the world. The gospel is first and foremost about the human person so embracing death and sin that God himself had to come and provide a rescue. The problem isn’t Rome or Islam. The problem is the individual sinner. The problem is each person rushing headlong towards the gates of hell. Public morality is the admittedly desirous outcome of a society that embraces the gospel. But it isn’t the goal, nor the promise.

Relinquishing a vision of a city on a hill, a nation called by God to bless the world, a moral and prosperous people united by a common language and outlook, seems impossibly hard. Surely our rights to speak and assemble together are necessary for the spread of the gospel. Surely the malign approach of Islam, conjoined to a worldview so unraveled, so sexually free that no woman or child can ever feel safe again is not God’s will for this nation.

And so, in a remarkably short time, a church that once sent missionaries into every corner of the globe—missionaries who went to the uttermost in relative poverty, in obscurity, without technology, without acclaim, risking their lives and their futures to bring the Good News to the lost of the world—that church is now crouching in the corner, anxious and worried about the economy, about this temporal sphere, about respect, about “our way of life.”

The only solution to our great ills is to do what White did that evening. He stood up and unabashedly proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ to a room full of perishing people. Christians have to do this, day in day out, in every forum, in every space, in every context, trusting that God is sovereign, that he is trustworthy, that his kingdom will come on his terms and in his timing. Nations rise and fall, but the Word of God is forever.



*In my own mind I maintain sharp distinction between those who held their nose and voted for Mr. Trump in the usual unhappy circumstance of having to pick between two terrible candidates, and those who threw their full affections behind this man, claiming that he was called and chosen by God, and continues not be able to do anything wrong. These two kinds of votes are not the same to my way of thinking
 

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“My Beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”

Song of Solomon 2:16, 17

Surely if there be a happy verse in the Bible it is this—“My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” So peaceful, so full of assurance, so overrunning with happiness and contentment is it, that it might well have been written by the same hand which penned the twenty-third Psalm. Yet though the prospect is exceeding fair and lovely—earth cannot show its superior—it is not entirely a sunlit landscape. There is a cloud in the sky which casts a shadow over the scene. Listen, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.”

There is a word, too, about the “mountains of Bether,” or, “the mountains of division,” and to our love, anything like division is bitterness. Beloved, this may be your present state of mind; you do not doubt your salvation; you know that Christ is yours, but you are not feasting with him. You understand your vital interest in him, so that you have no shadow of a doubt of your being his, and of his being yours, but still his left hand is not under your head, nor doth his right hand embrace you. A shade of sadness is cast over your heart, perhaps by affliction, certainly by the temporary absence of your Lord, so even while exclaiming, “I am his,” you are forced to take to your knees, and to pray, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved.”

“Where is he?” asks the soul. And the answer comes, “He feedeth among the lilies.” If we would find Christ, we must get into communion with his people, we must come to the ordinances with his saints. Oh, for an evening glimpse of him! Oh, to sup with him to-night!
 

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4 Great Bible Verses To Read When You’re Doubting God

Have you or someone you know had time where God seems silent, and so much so that you begin to doubt Him? If so, here are four great Bible verses to read when you doubt God.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
If God had not encouraged Joshua after Moses’ death, then Joshua may not have had the courage to take over the leadership of Israel, especially following what is considered the greatest leader of the Jews (save, Jesus Christ of course).

If you know someone who is experiencing a time of doubt in the goodness of God, please share some of these Bible quotes with them, because they’re not just the Word of God, they are the truth, and what is true never changes, just like the promises of God which included His never leaving us or forsaking us (Heb 13:5), even when we do for a season. It might give them some reassurance, and perhaps the peace of God which only He can give. It should give you some peace of mind.

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Only later would the disciples see that this came true. On the day Jesus died, they had lost all hope for like the Jews, they had thought the Messiah would come to rule, not live and be crucified.

That would be the last thing they expected, but if not for Jesus sinless life, death, and resurrection, we wouldn’t have the gospel (2 Cor 15:1-3) or the opportunity for eternal life (John 3:16), so we can’t always trust what we see, but we can always trust what God says. For example, Solomon wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Prov 3:5-6).

Psalm 50:15 “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
In the economy of God, nothing goes to waste, and even Joseph understood that, tell his brothers “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20). The Apostle Paul would suggest that we can “know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), and it’s nothing to compare with the glory that’s coming with Christ (Rom 8:18). Do you want to have God more clearly manifest Himself to you? I do.

Jesus says that it is a cause and effect, saying, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). For Thomas, seeing was believing, but it should not be so with us. Jesus, in rebuking Thomas’s lack of faith told him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). This is all the more reason to “not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The promise of no more separation from God and no more separation being possible because of God, so we are to “be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me” (Heb 13:5b-6)? Why fear when we have God’s Word on it that someday, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

The disciples were troubled by Jesus’ leaving and feeling a sense of loss, so Jesus reminded them that it was only temporary, saying, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19), so “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). And the peace of God “surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). It is as the Apostle Peter wrote: “For it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (1 Pet 2:6). The last time I checked, that cornerstone was still standing, and like the Word of God, He abides forever.

Conclusion
What Bible verse might you add to someone who is having a season of doubt? What verses help you in times where it seems God is silent? Are there some chapters you automatically turn to when you feel like you beginning to have doubts? Jude comes to my mind he wrote about those who may have been experiencing a time of doubt. He wrote, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23).
 

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His Tender Mercy
The tender mercy of our God

And they shall teach no more
every man his neighbour,
and every man his brother, saying,

Know the LORD: for they shall all know me,
from the least of them unto
the greatest of them, saith the LORD:

For I will forgive their iniquity,
and I will remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34 KJV
 

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“Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”

Numbers 11:23

God had made a positive promise to Moses that for the space of a whole month he would feed the vast host in the wilderness with flesh. Moses, being overtaken by a fit of unbelief, looks to the outward means, and is at a loss to know how the promise can be fulfilled. He looked to the creature instead of the Creator. But doth the Creator expect the creature to fulfil his promise for him? No; he who makes the promise ever fulfils it by his own unaided omnipotence.

If he speaks, it is done — done by himself. His promises do not depend for their fulfilment upon the co-operation of the puny strength of man. We can at once perceive the mistake which Moses made. And yet how commonly we do the same! God has promised to supply our needs, and we look to the creature to do what God has promised to do; and then, because we perceive the creature to be weak and feeble, we indulge in unbelief.

Why look we to that quarter at all? Will you look to the north pole to gather fruits ripened in the sun? Verily, you would act no more foolishly if ye did this than when you look to the weak for strength, and to the creature to do the Creator's work. Let us, then, put the question on the right footing. The ground of faith is not the sufficiency of the visible means for the performance of the promise, but the all-sufficiency of the invisible God, who will most surely do as he hath said.

If after clearly seeing that the onus lies with the Lord and not with the creature, we dare to indulge in mistrust, the question of God comes home mightily to us: “Has the Lord's hand waxed short?” May it happen, too, in his mercy, that with the question there may flash upon our souls that blessed declaration, “Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”
 

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The Old Frog

Two small boys on opposite banks, starring at one another.
If not for the pond between the two, they could be mistaken for brothers.

Two little boys, with fresh young faces but old hatreds fill their eyes.
Glaring across at one another, with anger and despise.

“Why do you both feel this way?” croaks the old frog from his lily pad.
“What have you done to one another?” uncertain why they’re mad.

“My father said, this is our way, that his side did us wrong.”
“Well my uncle has said, your sides to blame.” shouts a reply from across the pond.
The old frog then looks at both of the boys and questions with dismay.

“How can these brothers someday soar together, if they’re chained down by yesterday?”
 

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“Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.”

Numbers 21:17

Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: “That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged himself to give all we require. The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous.

In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it—the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it. Moreover, the well was the centre of prayer. “Spring up, O well.” What God has engaged to give, we must enquire after, or we manifest that we have neither desire nor faith.

This evening let us ask that the Scripture we have read, and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us with all his mighty power, filling us with all the fulness of God. Lastly, the well was the object of effort. “The nobles of the people digged it with their staves.” The Lord would have us active in obtaining grace. Our staves are ill adapted for digging in the sand, but we must use them to the utmost of our ability. Prayer must not be neglected; the assembling of ourselves together must not be forsaken; ordinances must not be slighted. The Lord will give us his peace most plenteously, but not in a way of idleness. Let us, then, bestir ourselves to seek him in whom are all our fresh springs.
 

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Got grace?


I shook my head in disbelief. This couldn’t be the right place. After all, I couldn’t possibly be welcome here. I had been given an invitation several times, by several different people, and had finally decided to see what this place was all about.
But, this just couldn’t be the right place. Quickly, I glanced down at the invitation that I clutched in my hand. I scanned past the words, “Come as you are. No jacket required, ” and found the location.

Yes, I was at the right place. I peered through the window again and saw a room of people whose faces seemed to glow with joy. All were neatly dressed, adorned in fine garments and appeared strangely clean as they dined at this exquisite restaurant.

Ashamed, I looked down at my own tattered and torn clothing, covered in stains. I was dirty, in fact, filthy. A foul smell seemed to consume me and I couldn’t shake the grime that clung to my body. As I turned around to leave, the words from the invitation seemed to leap out at me………”Come as you are. No jacket required.”
I decided to give it a shot. Mustering up every bit of courage I could find, I opened the door to this restaurant and walked up to a man standing behind a podium. “Your name, sir?” he asked me with a smile. “Richard W. Causey,” I mumbled without looking up. I thrust my hands deep into my pockets, hoping to conceal their stains. He didn’t seem to notice the filth that I was covered in and he continued, “Very good, sir. A table is reserved in your name. Would you like to be seated?”
I couldn’t believe what I heard! A grin broke out on my face and I said, “Yes, of course!” He led me to a table and, sure enough, there was a placard with my name written on it in a deep, dark red.

As I browsed over a menu, I saw many delightful items listed. There were things like, “peace,” “joy,” “blessings,” “confidence,” “assurance,” “hope,” “love,” “faith,” and “mercy.” I realized that this was no ordinary restaurant!
I flipped the menu back to the front in order to see where I was at…. “God’s Grace,” was the name of the place! The man returned and said, “I recommend the ‘Special of the Day.’ With it, you are entitled to heaping portions of everything on this menu.”

You’ve got to be kidding! I thought to myself. You mean, I can have ALL of this! “What is the ‘Special of the Day’ I asked with excitement ringing in my voice.
“Salvation,” was his reply. ” I’ll take it,” I practically cried out. Then, as quickly as I made that statement, the joy left my body. A sick painful ache jerked through my stomach and tears filled my eyes. Between my sobs I said…”Mister, look at me. I’m dirty and nasty.

I’m unclean and unworthy of such things. I’d love to have all of this, but, but, I just can’t afford it.” Undaunted, the man smiled again. “Sir, your check has already been taken care of by that Gentleman over there,” he said pointing to the front of the room. “His Name is Jesus.”
Turning, I saw a man whose very presence seemed to light the room. He was almost too much to look at.
I found myself walking towards Him and in a shaking voice, I whispered, “Sir, I’ll wash the dishes or sweep the floors or take out the trash. I’ll do anything I can do to repay you for all of this.”

He opened His arms and said with a smile, “Son, all of this is yours if you just come unto me. Ask me to clean you up and I will. Ask me to take away the stains and it is done. Ask me to allow you to feast at my table and you will eat.
Remember, the table is reserved in your name. All you must do is accept this gift that I offer you.”
Astonished, I fell at His feet and said, “Please, Jesus. Please clean up my life. Please change me and sit me at your table and give me this new life.” Immediately, I heard the words, “It is finished.”

I looked down and white robes adorned my squeaky clean body. Something strange and wonderful had happened. I felt new, like a weight had been lifted and I found myself seated at His table.
“The ‘Special of the Day’ has been served,” the Lord said to me. “Salvation is yours.” We sat and talked for a great while and I so enjoyed the time that I spent with Him. He told me, me of all people, that He would like for me to come back as often as I liked for another helping from God’s Grace.

He made it clear that He wanted me to spend as much time with Him as possible. As it drew near time for me to go back outside into the “Real World, ” He whispered to me softly, “And Lo, I am with you always.” And then, He said something to me that I will never forget.
He said…”My child, do you see these empty tables throughout this room?” “Yes, Lord. I see them. What do they mean?” I replied. “These are reserved tables… but the individuals whose names are on each placard have not accepted their invitations to dine.
Would you be so kind as to hand out these invitations to those who have not joined us yet?” Jesus asked. “Of course, ” I said with excitement as I picked up the invitations. “Go ye therefore into all nations.”

He said as I turned to leave. I walked into God’s Grace dirty and hungry. Stained in sin. My righteousness as filthy rags. And Jesus cleaned me up. I walked out a brand new man…robed in white, His righteousness. And so, I’ll keep my promise to my Lord. I’ll go. I’ll spread the Word. I’ll share the Gospel… I’ll hand out the invitations. And I’ll start with you. Have you been to God’s Grace? There’s a table reserved in your name, and here’s your invitation….
“Come as you are. No jacket required.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9

So if you’re feeling like no one loves you, you’re not worthy, no one wants to be your friend or you don’t want to live any more. Take heart because there is someone who wants you know you, REALLY know YOU. HIS name??? Jesus Christ. Jesus has been with you every day of your life, only you didn’t know it. I’m here today to tell you that there’s a table with your name on it and Jesus wants to share dinner with you. All you have to do is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Ask HIM to forgive all your sins and believe that HE died for your sins and the Door Will be Opened to you. Join us because we love you. Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. Your choice, your destiny. Where will you spend eternity? Smoking or Non-Smoking?
 
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