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BE LIKE THE SPIDER
There was a man who was cleaning up his desk one Friday afternoon when he noticed an envelope that had been opened. Someone must have placed it there while he was on the phone. He opened it and read it, and to his shock and dismay it was a notice of being terminated, being laid-off from his job. His entire department was being eliminated along with his position. After all the years he had given to his corporation, he found himself filled with resentment and the sense of being victimized. The man sat slumped in his chair in utter despair.
He began to think of all the terrible things that were going to happen to him. His entire lifestyle would have to be altered. He thought, "I'll have to sell my house; I'm too old to get another job; I'm useless; I'm all washed up."
At that moment, the man noticed a spider on his desk, and without thinking he brushed it off. He was amazed though as he watched as the tiny creature automatically spin a strand to bear its weight and swing gracefully to the floor.
He pondered: If this tiny creature could draw forth from within itself some reserve of resources to meet its emergency, why could he not do as much? For many hours, he sat deep in troubling thoughts that turned gradually to creative mediation.
The man moved from the anxiety of what he lacked to the abundance of the God-given inner resources he had been blessed with. He thought: "My security is not in my job or in my money or in my house but in my connection with the God of grace who has seen me through all circumstances in my life. They might take me off the payroll, but no one can take away the flow of God's abundance in my life."
This man had secretly been longing for an opportunity to tap into his creative ability and interest in writing. Now here was the opportunity before him. A whole new way of thinking possessed him. He thanked God for the new door that had opened before him and even blessed his termination from his job. He left the office with an enthusiasm and zest for life that surprised even himself.
To make a long story short, the man had some writings published and earned some money. Now he didn't become a financial giant but more importantly he had a new found faith in the abundance of God and became less anxious about what he lacked in his life.
Source: Adapted from a story told by Eric Butterworth
When you first met “J.E.”, you could tell he was a very angry man. In fact, at age 54 he’d been an angry person for many years. In a Bible study that night, many questions had been raised in his mind. Talking with the leader afterward, J.E. said, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 9 years old. But nobody ever taught me about who I am in Christ, that I’m accepted by God or that Christ lives in me.”
“What were you taught?” the Bible study leader asked.” “Where I grew up, we heard all the time about how perfect Christ was and about how we should learn to live like Him – if we didn’t, God would judge us.” J.E. went on, “It didn’t take me long, I’d say in my teen years, to figure out that I was never going to cut it. So I gave up trying. I guess I’ve been living in guilt and running from God ever since. Off and on through the years I tried to go back to church, but I just got more guilt piled on top of me. I’ve sat under so many teachers who made me fearful that I was afraid to turn in any direction because God was going to get me. This is the first Bible study I’ve ever attended that gave me any hope” J.E. concluded.
At that point, J.E. was 54 years old. That means, even though he had been born again through trusting Jesus Christ at a young age, he had spent at least 35 years running away from God. Tragically, his experience isn’t that unusual. Thousands of people who sincerely responded to the gospel message they were taught spend years thrashing around trying to make it work, but without success. In fact, I believe the reason so many Christians struggle in living the Christian life is their lack of understanding their Identity in Christ.
(This illustration came from the book "Growing in Grace" by Bob George pages 59-60)
I’ve been reading "The Journal of John Wesley". In the entry for 24th May 1738, he wrote a detailed account of his spiritual pilgrimage. As a young boy in the family of a clergyman he had been "carefully taught" that salvation could only be obtained by "keeping all the commandments of God." Over the years at school and university, he wrote, "’I now hoped to be saved, by, (1) Not being so bad as other people. (2) Having a kind of religion. And, (3) Reading the Bible, going to church, and saying my prayers.’ I doubted not but I was a good Christian."
He was eventually ordained as a minister and lived very strictly, as he put it, "I omitted no sort of self-denial." But this brought him no peace with God. He went as a chaplain to the American Colonies and came under the influence of Moravian Christians and on his return to England in that January he realised that what he was lacking was "faith in and through Christ". He wrote in his Journal that he resolved to renounce all dependence upon his "own works or righteousness" and instead turned to a "saving faith, a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for me." He finally knew he was converted when his heart "was strangely warmed" within him and "an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins."
Story: At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”
Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”
The room fell silent.
Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride.
Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.
Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requ...
"Why is it that the vast majority of Christian believers remain largely unexposed to Christian learning--to historical-critical studies of the Bible, the content and structure of the great doctines, to two thousand years of classic works on the Christian life, to basic disciplines of theology, biblical languages and ethics? Why do bankers, lawyers, farmers, physicians, homemakers, scientists, salespeople, managers of all sorts, people who carry out all kinds of complicated tasks in their work and home, remain in a literalist, elementary school level in their religious understanding? How is it that high school age church members move easily and quickly into the complex world of computers, foreign languages, DNA and calculus, and cannot even make a beginning in historical-critical interpretation of a single text of Scripture? How is it possible one can attend or even teach Sunday School for decades and at the end of that lack the interpretive skills of someone who has taken three or four weeks in an introductory course in the Bible at a university or seminary?"
Edward Farley, "Can Church Education Be Theological Education", Theology Today, July 1985.
Well when it came to my favorite subjects their were two that I just were not good at. One was Math and the other was science. Though science and math are still weaknesses of mine, I do remember learning one law that will help us in understanding this subject of how we treat grace. What I have here is my contraption of a pendulum. You know what a pendulum is. You can find them in clocks and other things. Well there is a physical law that speaks to how a pendulum works. The law of the pendulum says that a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. It has to do with friction and gravity. I don’t understand all of that but what I do understand is that if I take this pendulum when it swings back it will always fall short of the original release point and as it swings the arc will continue to be smaller and smaller until it finally stops. Here is what I mean. Notice this is where I will start it from now watch and see that as it moves it gets smaller and smaller which shows that there is a law of pendulum and indeed it does work. Now anyone have a problem with that. Okay, Chrysta will you come here please. Now remember that the law of the pendulum states that the pendulum will never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Now are you willing to stand here and allow me to take this brick and try the theory of the pendulum? If the theory is true then your nose should be safe. So Do you believe this theory is true? Now what people can’t see is that you are starting to get sweaty and nervous up here. That was a weak yes. You see that’s the problem. It is easy to believe in this law when it is simply theory and we are talking about it. Yet when your life depends on this law of the pendulum, it shows a lack of faith and belief in the theory. Now you say, what does this have to say about our reaction to grace? Well is it not true that it is easy for us to believe in God’s sufficient grace for me on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Oh how easy it is for us this morning to stand up and say Oh yes I rely on God. I rely on him fully and completely. I trust him with everything Yet what happens when we are outside of church. What happens when things don’t go like we planned. What happens when sickness, sorrow, difficulties come in our life. What happens when God says my grace is sufficient for you now trust me? What can easily happen is we let go. We run from the brick. We don’t trust the theory when put into practice.
The Farmer's Three Wishes - An ancient Jewish parable:
One night a poor farmer was awakened by an angel of the Lord who said: "You've found favor in the eyes of your Maker. He wants to do for you what he did for your ancestor Abraham. He wants to bless you.
Therefore, make any three requests of God, and he will be pleased to give them to you. There's only one condition: your neighbor will get a double portion of everything that is given to you."
The farmer was so startled by all this that he woke up his wife and told her all about it. She insisted they put it to the test.
So they prayed, "Oh, blessed God, if we could just have a herd of a thousand cattle, that would enable us to break out of the poverty in which we've lived for generations. That would be wonderful."
No sooner had they said these words than they heard the sound of animal noises outside. Lo and behold, all around the house were a thousand magnificent cattle!
During the next two days, the farmer's feet hardly touched the ground. He divided his time between praising God for his great generosity and making practical provisions for his newly found affluence.
On the third afternoon he was up on a hill behind his house, trying to decide where to build a new barn when, for the first time, he looked across at his neighbor's field, and there on the green hillside stood two thousand magnificent cattle.
For the first time since the angel of the Lord had appeared, his joy evaporated and a scowl of envy took its place.
He went home that evening in a foul mood, refused to eat supper, and went to bed in an absolute rage. He couldn't fall asleep, because every time he closed his eyes, all he could see were his neighbor's two thousand head of cattle.
Deep in the night, however, he remembered that the angel had said he could make three wishes. With that he shifted his focus away from his neighbor and back to his own situation, and the old joy quickly returned.
Digging into his own heart to find out what else he really wanted, he began to realize that in addition to some kind of material security, he had always wanted descendants to carry on his name into history.
So he prayed a second time saying, "Gracious God, if it please thee, give me a child that I may have descendants." It wasn't long before his wife came to him with the news that she was bearing in her body a life not her own.
The next months were passed in unbroken joy. The farmer was busy with his newly acquired affluence and looking forward to the great grace of becoming a parent. On the night his first child was born, he was absolutely overjoyed.
The next day was the Sabbath. He went to the synagogue and at the time of the prayers of the people, he stood up and shared with the gathered community his great good fortune: now at last a child had been born into their home!
He had hardly sat down, however, when his neighbor got up. "God has indeed been gracious to our little community. I had twin sons born last night. Thanks be to God."
On hearing that, the farmer went home in an utterly different mood from the one in which he came. Instead of being joyful, he was filled with the canker of jealousy.
This time, the dark emotions didn't go away. Late that evening, he made his third request of God, which was, "Lord, please gouge out my right eye."
No sooner had he said these words than the angel who started the whole process came again. "Why, son of Abraham, have your turned to such dark desirings?"
With pent-up rage, the farmer replied, "I can't stand to see my neighbor prosper! I'll gladly sacrifice half my vision for the satisfaction of knowing that he'll never be able to look on what he has because he'll have both eyes gouged out."
Those words were followed by a long silence, and as the farmer looked, he saw tears forming in the eyes of the angel. "Why, O son of Abraham, have you turned the occasion to bless into a time of hurting?
Your third request won't be granted, not because the Lord lacks integrity, but because he is full of mercy. However, know this, O foolish one..you've brought sadness..not only to yourself, but to the very heart of God."
Because I Have Been Given Much
By Grace Nowell Crowell
Because I have been given much, I too must give
Because of Thy great bounty Lord, each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from Thee
With every brother that I see
Who has need of help from me.
Because I have been sheltered, fed, by Thy good care
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share.
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof’s safe shelter over my head,
That he too may be comforted.
Because love has been lavished so upon me, Lord...
TOO SOFT ON PEOPLE?
A preacher named Ron Rose told a woman who came into his office complaining that his sermons always being about forgiveness and grace. She said he needed to come down harder on the sinners and in her words, "nail them."
After her rant, Ron asked, "So, you’ve got forgiveness and grace all worked out in your own life?"
"Well, Ron" she replied, "there are some things you can’t turn loose of, things that don’t deserve grace, or forgiveness. That’s just the way it is. I know it’s that way in my family."
She leaned over my desk and revealed a heart hardened by resentment and bitterness, "No, forgiveness is not an option. I’ve been hurt too much."
The grudge was too embedded. And her spiritual life was powerless and trapped in the wilderness. Lack of forgiveness had turned her into a critical, judgmental woman.
Then the preacher went on to say "She wanted me to make everyone else as miserable as she was."
(From an article by Jeff Strite, "A Love That Will Not Let You Go" 7/26/2009)
GRACE WAS "CHOPPED"
I was watching "Chopped" on Food Network. It was down to two chefs. Chef A had prepared the best appetizer and entrée. Now it was time for dessert -- his dish did not get plated quite on time.
One of the judges asked his competitor, Chef B, if they could taste his dessert pancake that was still in the pan. This would violate the rules, so it could only be done with the competitors permission. Chef B said, "No." Rules were rules.
I really think that if Chef B had let the judges taste Chef A’s pancakes, Chef B would have won. As it was, the judges liked Chef A’s first two courses so much that they gave him the award. But I really think the lack of graciousness on the part of Chef B affected the decision.
You see, when we are out to be fair and gracious and take a servant’s attitude, we are often blessed in the process. We are all about ourselves and our status, it often works in reverse.