Thursday, 22 September 2011

God's Grocery Store

As I was walking down life's highway, many years ago I came upon a sign that read, "Heavens Grocery Store.."

When I got a little closer, the doors swung open wide. When I came to myself, I was standing inside. I saw a host of angels. They were standing everywhere.

One handed me a basket and said, "My Child, shop with care.."

Everything a human needed was in that grocery store. What you could not carry, you could come back for more.

First I got some Patience. Love was in that same row. Further down was Understanding. You need that everywhere you go. I got a box or two of Wisdom, and Faith a bag or two, and Charity - of course - I would need some of that too. I couldn't miss the Holy Ghost; it was all over the place. Then some Strength and Courage to help me run this race. My basket was getting full but I remembered I needed Grace. I chose salvation for salvation was for free I tried to get enough of that to do for you and me.

Then I started to the counter to pay my grocery bill. I thought I had everything to do the Masters will.

As I went up the aisle I saw Prayer and put that in, for I knew when I stepped outside I would run into sin. Peace and Joy were plentiful, the last things on the shelf. Song and Praise were hanging near, so I just helped myself.

Then I said to the angel, "Now how much do I owe?"

He smiled and said, "Just take them everywhere you go."

Again I asked, "Really now, how much do I owe?"

"My child," he said, "God paid your bill a long, long time ago."

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Taste My Jesus

At the University of Chicago Divinity School each year they have what they called "Baptist Day." On this day each one is to bring a lunch to be eaten out of doors in a grassy picnic area. Every "Baptist Day" the school would invite one of the greatest minds to lecture in the Theological Educational Center.

One year they invited Dr. Paul Tillich. Dr. Tillich spoke for two and one-half hours "proving" that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no such thing as the resurrection, the religious tradition of the church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who in fact never rose from the dead in any literal sense.

He then asked if there were any questions. After about 30 seconds, an old dark-skinned preacher with a head of short-cropped wooly white hair stood up in the back. "Doctor, I got one question." All eyes turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it.

"Doctor Tillich ... CRUNCH, MUNCH, my question is a simple question, ... CRUNCH MUNCH ... "Now I never read them books you read. CRUNCH MUNCH ... "and I can't recite the Scriptures in the original Greek ... CRUNCH MUNCH ... "And I don't know about Niebuhr and Heidegger ... CRUNCH MUNCH.

He finished his apple "All I want ta know is: This apple I just ate ... was it bitter or sweet?" Dr. Tillich paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: "I cannot possibly answer that message, for I haven't tasted your apple."

The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked at Dr. Tillich and calmly, "Neither have you tasted my Jesus".

The 1000 plus in attendance could not contain themselves. The crowd erupted with applause and cheers. Dr. Tillich thanked his audience and promptly left.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Darts - Very Moving

A young lady named Sally, relates an experience she had in a Seminary Class, given by her teacher, Dr. Smith. She says Dr. Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons.

One particular day, Sally walked into the seminary and knew they were in for a fun day. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Dr. Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and he would allow them to throw darts at the person's picture.

Sally's girlfriend drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing pimples on the face. Sally was pleased at the overall effect she had achieved.

The class lined up and began throwing darts, with much laughter and hilarity. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart.

Sally looked forward to her turn, and was filled with disappointment when Dr. Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats. As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn't have a chance to throw any darts at her target.

Dr. Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus ...

A complete hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced. Dr. Smith said only these words ... "In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Matthew 25:40 No other words were necessary; the tear-filled eyes of each student focused only on the picture of Christ.

Maybe we should look for the Christ in people before we throw darts

Friday, 16 September 2011

No Jacket Required

I shook my head in disbelief. This couldn't be the right place. After all,  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. "Jimmy D. Brown," 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 lead 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 this 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 as he pointed 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 the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." - Ephesians 2:8,9.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Manger

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.

Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.

Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.

Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then, Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did." But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, "If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?" And Jesus told me, "If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me." "So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him ... for always."

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him - FOR ALWAYS. I've learned that it's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts ... AMEN 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Growth through Crisis

Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ – Mark 9:23-24.
This man brought his son to Jesus for help. Why? There was nowhere else for him to turn for help. From childhood, his son had suffered, and no one had been able to help; even the disciples had been unable to help. But still the man comes to Jesus to seek His help. You probably have been there at some point in your life, or you may be there now. You are at the end of your rope, and your fingers are losing their grip. You’re just not sure how much longer you can hold on, and you call out to the only One who has the power to help.
The man who brought his son to Jesus was blessed with the miraculous healing of his child. However, if you look closely at the story, you see in verse 26, that at first everyone thought he had died. But then Jesus lifted him up, and “he arose.” The man who had prayed for Jesus’ help for his unbelief received help. No doubt his faith was strengthened far beyond what he could have ever dared to hope. Also, the faith of others was strengthened, including onlookers, and that of the disciples. When you grow through crisis, others will grow as well.
It seems I have had many crisis situations in my life, in which I turned toward God, and not away from Him. The first one occurred early in our marriage, and early in my life as a Christian. I was far from God, and my wife told me she was leaving me. I prayed for the first time in a long time, and she came home at the end of the week. My prayer life was strengthened incredibly. The second time I was in a crisis with temptation. I prayed; God delivered me, and I grew so much closer to Him. The third time I was in a crisis when my son was born with Down Syndrome. I prayed for him to be healed, and to be made “normal,” but God answered my prayer by saying He would be with me, and He has been with me. My son has been one of God’s greatest blessings in my life. Not an easy blessing sometimes, but still a blessing that continues to draw me nearer, and nearer to my Lord.
I could tell you of more recent crises, but I think you can get the picture.
I know of many, including friends who during times of crisis have turned away from God, and the result has been a lack of growth in their lives. If, however, during our times of crisis and despair, we turn to God; we will grow, and He will use it to bring about good in our lives and the lives of others. Allow God to “help” your “unbelief.”
Copyright © 2002-2010. Ed Wrather. Permission is given for use of the devotionals on a non-profit basis with source credited. The Burning Bush website has been online since January 31, 1998. On June 8, 1998 the email version of the Burning Bush Devotional was first sent. Ed Wrather began writing devotionals in the early 1990s. The distribution of these first devotionals was primarily through the Burning Bush Newsletter sent to prison facilities throughout the United States and Canada.
Submitted by Richard
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