What Do We Deserve?

This is a true story.

A minister of God didn’t have anyone to work with, so he asked God to make him available to whatever would be his will. He checked want ads, because he needed some money, and he saw there was a bus driving job made available to him. So he worked as a bus driver in south Chicago. If you know anything about Chicago, it is not south Chicago you want to drive a bus in, but that’s where they had the need. He found out later it was because nobody else would stay on the job. So he drove it.

Before a week passed, some thugs got on the bus and didn’t pay, they sat in the back, sneered and jeered and mocked him. The next day the same thing happened. The third day it happened again. After it went on for about a week, he decided he didn’t have to put up with that. So he decided to call an officer inside the bus and make them pay. He saw one down about a block away and after he got on he told the officer that the fellows back there haven’t paid for several days, would you at least make them pay today? And he did, but unfortunately the officer got off the bus. When the door was closed, the bus driver drove a little further and turned a corner, and that was the last thing he remembered. They knocked a couple of teeth out and stole his money, and when he woke up the bus was empty.

He sat there in confusion and disillusionment wondering, “What kind of ministry is this, Lord? I told you I was available and this was the job you opened up?” And he went home, turned the bus in, took the rest of the day off. He stared at the ceiling as he was nursing his wounds, and he thought, “I’m not gonna let them get away with that.” So, through an interesting chain of events, they rounded up, with the help of some officers, the very guys and took them to court. All four of them.

The of the hearing he stood before the court, and the judge listened carefully, an decided the fellows were guilty. And they didn’t have any money to buy their way out, so they had to spend some time in jail. Suddenly the minister realized, “Here’s my chance.” He said, “Your honor, may I speak for a moment?” The judge allowed it and the minister said, “I’d like for you to tally up all of the time these fellows together would be spending in jail, and I’d like to go in their behalf.” And the judge responded, “Well, that’s highly irregular, it has never been done before.” And the minister responded, “Oh yes it has, about 2,000 years ago.” And then in about 4 minutes he gave them the gospel.

Three of the young men came to know Christ right away and one of them later, after the minister was incarcerated. That fellow was having a ministry with those four guys who heard the message that somebody else wanted to pay the price for their sin. A living testimony for what Christ did for us.

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I Believe in the Bizarre

THE BIZARRE

Talking dogs are all the rage.  Well, if TV shows and cartoons are any indication, some dogs can talk.  I’ve heard of YouTube videos where dogs are supposed be talking and sometimes it seems like they are speaking English.  I think Mr. Ed’s voice was a human voice recorded to make it sound like a horse talking.  I’m being silly now, but when we think an animal talks, it is probably just the natural aspect of sounds and phonetics coming together to sound like words.  It happens when you listen to a recording backwards, sometimes the phonetics and sounds come together and sound like words (this is without purposeful back masking).

Do you believe that a donkey talked?  There was a bad prophet of God who believes that a donkey talked.  Balaam was a bad boy.  He liked money and Balak the king of Moab hired him to curse Israel.  God wouldn’t let him curse Israel, so whenever he spoke to curse, blessings from God came out of his mouth.  Of course this upset Balak, so Balaam didn’t get paid.

Numbers 22:21ff, record Balaam’s donkey talking to him.  In fact, he responded to Balaam angrily beating him for pinning his leg against a rock wall.  The donkey actually saved Balaam’s life, but what thanks did the donkey get, a beating.

Animals do not naturally speak in human language, but God, being all-powerful has the ability to make them talk if he so desires, Balaam’s donkey talks and makes a fool of Balaam, and Balaam was a greedy fool who helped Balak seduce Israel into sin and then Israel received the consequences for their sin.

I believe the bizarre because God does.

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My Association With the Thief on the Cross

At some time in everyone’s life we must come to grips with who we are. In those moments, when we begin to ask the questions, most of us search for meaning in who we are. If we are honest and even courageous, we will admit that there are things wrong with us. Each of those “things wrong with us” ultimately come from the reality (a reality we may not know or understand yet) that we are sinners.

Sinners! What does that mean. That means that we have gone against some standard or level of truth that we have not achieved and what we have done to compensate for our failure is sin. Of course that word, “sin” means “to miss the mark.”

I’ve played darts some, I’ve shot a basketball at a basket, a lot (I am a Hoosier), I have tried kicking a few field goals and in every case (especially kicking field goals) I missed the mark. But, that is not as strong a concept as what the Biblical term sin implies.

Missing the mark implies consequence for failing. Just because I didn’t score the points when I missed in darts and basketball and football, doesn’t mean there is a consequence. There may be some sort of consequence. I might lose the game for my team if I miss. That’s too bad. I might, if I am a professional athlete (which I’m not nor have I ever been close to being one) I might lose my position on the team. But the consequence of sin, of missing the mark, is comprehensive, it is death, spiritual, eternal death.

“The wages of sin is death….” Romans 6:23, KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV (cf, 1 John 5:17)

As I realized that I had failed God’s standard; “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (the Good News Bible), because of my sin, I realized I needed Jesus.

Jesus overcame and conquered so much in God’s name for you and I. Most importantly for us right here and right now, he conquered sin and death (Romans 4:25 & 8:2) and freed us to become a part of the Father’s kingdom of love and life.

The thief on the cross, when he looked to Jesus and asked for mercy in his kingdom, took the humble attitude of realizing that he had sinned but Jesus had not, that he deserved death but Jesus didn’t, that he needed Jesus’ mercy and Jesus could give it (Luke 23:40-43).

When I am dying in my sins (see passages above), I am dying away from God, without hope, but not without help. Jesus is there waiting on my call to him to save me. When I come to him in my dying spiritual condition and confess my belief in him, wanting to turn and come to God, when I die through immersion (Romans 6:1-10; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), Jesus is saying to me, “Now, you are joining me in my glory, with the Father, forever.”

It is then that I become associated with the thief on the cross. Because I am now coming into Christ and am forgiven, forever, for glory, for good.

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Which Thief (on the cross) Are You?

There’s a cross for you. I mean, the three crosses raised that day in A.D. 29 were our crosses. Our sin, our affront to God with our sin shows we are guilty and deserved death.

Three people died that day; Jesus in the middle, and two criminals on the left and right side of Jesus. When Jesus said “it is finished,” the fate of the two thieves was set. One would suffer in hell, the other, would join Jesus in “paradise.”

Sin destroys! Think about it. Sin doesn’t do good at all. The ultimate purpose of sin is to destroy the sinner. Lying destroys trust. Hate and murder destroys lives. Adultery destroys relationships and families. Sin destroys.

The reason for sin’s destruction is to hurt God. The devil, in the Garden of Eden, in the form of a serpent wanted to convince Adam and Eve to sin. He worked his deceit through Eve and Adam fell in with her in the sin.

The devil wants to hurt God, and what hurts the most, a severely broken relationship. Sin is the break-point and separation and punishment is the consequence, because, we have not obeyed the Father.

The thieves had separate attitudes about Jesus. One taunted Jesus to save himself. The crowds watching the spectacle were taunting Jesus in the same way. The other thief, realized that Jesus was without sin and that he did not deserve punishment. He even scolded the other thief. We deserve this punishment, but this man has done no wrong.

“For all have sinned” Romans3.23; and “the wages of sin is death” @Romans6.23. We are sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus died. But Jesus death was for sin. He was on the cross receiving the penalty for our sin, therefore he became sin for us.

Because the one thief was repentant, when he asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with him that very day. He was forgiven. He was given freedom from the spiritual penalty of his sin.

Have you repented of your sin against God? Have you asked forgiveness for your sinfulness? Have you confessed Jesus as the risen Son of God because you believe in him? Have you been immersed for your salvation?

Which thief are you?

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Final Grace Rests Easily Where Sin Once Sat from Romans, Part 14

Let me conclude this series on grace with an illustration of the truth we have just examined and how this is grace at work in us.

Mitsuo Fuchida grew up loving his native Japan and hating the United States, which treated Asian immigrants harshly in the first half of the twentieth century. Fuchida attended a military academy, joined Japan’s Naval Air Force, and by 1941, with 10,000 flying hours behind him, had established himself as the nation’s top pilot. When Japanese military leaders needed someone to command a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, they chose Fuchida.

Fuchida’s was the voice that sent his aircraft carrier the message “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) indicating the success of the surprise mission. Later, he too was surprised when he learned that, of the 70 officers who participated in the raid, he was the only one who returned alive. He had another close call when he was shot down during the battle of Midway in 1942, but despite serious injuries, he survived again.


By 1945 he had attained the position of the Imperial Navy’s Air Operations Officer. On August 6 he was eating breakfast in Nara, Japan,
where a new military headquarters was under construction, when he heard about a bomb dropped on Hiroshima. He flew to investigate, then sent a grim report to the Imperial Command.

On the same day, an American POW named Jacob DeShazer felt moved by the Holy Spirit to pray for peace. DeShazer had been in captivity since 1942, when, as a member of Doolittle’s Raiders, he had dropped bombs near Tokyo and then was forced to parachute into China. While imprisoned, first in Nanjing and later in Beijing, DeShazer had become a Christian. He found his heart softened toward his Japanese captors. After being liberated, DeShazer wrote a widely distributed essay, “I Was a Prisoner of the Japanese,” detailing his experiences of capture, conversion, and forgiveness.

Fuchida and DeShazer met in 1950. DeShazer had returned to Japan in 1948 as a missionary. Fuchida had read DeShazer’s testimony, bought a Bible, and converted from Buddhism to Christianity. DeShazer had recently finished a 40-day fast for revival in Japan when Fuchida came to his home and introduced himself. DeShazer welcomed the new convert and encouraged him to be baptized. While DeShazer continued to plant churches throughout Japan, Fuchida became an evangelist, spreading a message of peace and forgiveness in his native country and throughout Asian-American communities.

Fuchida died on May 30, 1976. Like dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, who wished his legacy to be one of peace rather than destruction, Fuchida wanted the message of his changed heart to supersede the memory of his infamous attack. He wrote, “That morning [December 7] . . . I lifted the curtain of warfare by dispatching that cursed order, and I put my whole effort into the war that followed. . . . [But] after buying and reading the Bible, my mind was strongly impressed and captivated. I think I can say today without hesitation that God’s grace has been set upon me.”  [Elesha Coffman, “Beyond Pearl Harbor,” Christian History Online Newsletter (6-01-01); submitted by Kevin Miller; Wheaton, Illinois]

How does faith come to and grow in a person.  By God’s Word!  Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing the message and the message is heard by the word of Christ.”

God’s word, given to the unbeliever that does not resist the Word, works in their heart and mind and they come to believe in Jesus and convert to Christ, but that’s not all, the word continues to develop faith as the Word continues in their life.

God’s grace saves, but his grace does so much more than save, it transforms, protects, and develops and grows faith and hope, and life.

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Getting Into This Grace, Part 12

      A family from a remote area was making their first visit to a big city. They checked in to a grand hotel and stood in amazement at the impressive sight. Leaving the reception desk they came to the elevator entrance. They’d never seen an elevator before, and just stared at it, unable to figure out what it was for.

An old lady hobbled towards the elevator and went inside. The door closed. About a minute later, the door opened and out came a stunningly good-looking young woman.

The Dad couldn’t stop staring. Without turning his head he patted his son’s arm and said, “Go get your mother, son.”

It’s just a joke, but transformation is what we’re dealing with today. Not just change, but more than change, transformation, metamorphosis; the conversion of our hearts and minds and souls.

That’s where Paul takes us in Romans. After receiving God’s grace there is still the struggle of living in a holy manner. In Romans 7, Paul discussed the difficulty of receiving grace and not living by grace. “I do the things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things I know I should do.” As long as we continue to live in the flesh, we will have that struggle. What’s the solution?

Let’s start with God and the beginning of all things by going back to creation. God made everything and this is God’s estimation of it:

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” Genesis 1:31. (NIV)

“It may seem obvious at first, but this statement is actually quite radical. By claiming that creation is good, the Bible places itself in contrast to a number of religions and philosophies that hold that this earth upon which we live is, at best, irrelevant, or, at worst, evil.

Biblical faith however, declares that the world God has made is good. Creation is very good, not evil.  It is the environment in which God created us to prosper and thrive” (Mark Sayers, The Vertical Self); this is the home that God created for us to live in with him and the whole of creation. Yet, sin removed us from the good and moved us into the bad and as Romans 9:19-22 tells us, the creation is suffering because of human sin as well.

Things were good until sin entered the world and corrupted everything. As we said before, you weren’t born with sin. Sin is not your natural way it’s not in your spiritual or physical DNA. You didn’t inherit it from Adam and Eve, but like Adam and Eve, you had a choice and you chose wrong. You sinned by choice and that is how sin entered the world and how sin became a part of your life, by each and every individual’s choice.

In Christ, through his death and resurrection and by means of your faith, you are freed from sin, and set apart able to live a holy and righteous life pleasing to God. But until we get to heaven, we still struggle with temptation and sin and don’t always accomplish the will of God in holiness.

Paul gives us the solution beginning with chapter 12 through the rest of the book. It’s here that he gets really practical.

CLIMB UP AND BECOME A SACRIFICE – Romans 12:1 “

We are to be “living sacrifices.” That’s kind of a contradictory term. The sacrifice is usually killed and prepared before it is sacrificed. The life of the sacrifice was the sacrifice. Its death was the substitution for the person’s sins it was sacrificed for. But we are to be living sacrifice. What’s that mean?

Begin with this thought: Reconciliation rarely occurs without sacrifice. By giving his one and only Son, God took the initiative in healing our broken relationship with him. He made the supreme sacrifice for us that we might be reconciled to him. Jesus’ death was the sacrifice for your sins, yet he lives. His death makes it possible for you to be saved, to be reconciled to God, to fix the broken tie that sin caused between you and God.

Remember, you were dead in your sins, but in Christ you have life. You were dead and buried in baptism and coming out of the water came out alive, reconciled to God. You are now his child, you have been saved by God’s grace. You gave your life to God; you are a living sacrifice, pure and holy – holy and pleasing to God (as the verse tells us).

That is a decision, an attitude, and a determination.

You can’t be a living sacrifice unless you choose to be. It is your decision. You have to choose to be holy to God. As we will see, he will enact the transformation with your decision and your effort and you will become this living sacrifice and will show God’s holiness.

Unless you are holy, you cannot be a sacrifice to God . . . at all. We see this in the story of Israel. God called his people for a special purpose.  Israel was to be a holy people whose embodiment of God’s values would speak to the nations of the world. He called Israel to be a living example of the way he wanted the world to be.

Christians, the church is spiritual Israel and we have the same purpose in this world, to embody God’s holiness as a witness to the world. Yet, we have to decide to become what God has wanted to do in us all along.

At the same time you have to want to be that way. You can decide something all day long, but if you don’t want to do it or be that way, you either won’t or your heart won’t be in it. And if you do it, you are just going through the motions. It has little or no meaning to you.  You’re just “doing it,” not “being it.”

Your attitude, your motivation matters. It is so much more than doing the right thing, it is having right attitude, the correct motivation just like the Sermon on the Mount teaches us. See if these words capture the right attitude?

  • Thankfulness and Gratefulness
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Harmony
  • Hope
  • Mission and ministry
  • Calling
  • Who you are in Christ

And with the elements of choice, attitude, and determination to become who God wants you to be and calls you to be, while he works in you – you also work through his strength, his gifts, his Spirit, and as we shall see from verse 2, his word.

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Why Grace?

“Why did there have to be a covenant of grace? Because people rebelled and could not come to God in their own goodness. They were under the judgment of God with true moral guilt. So God had to give the covenant of grace at the terrible cost of Christ’s death because people were justly under God’s condemnation and judgment without it.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, page 76

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