Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Choice Before You

The Choice is Yours 

“In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.

Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who’d forgiven him all of his sins. Through his actions he echoed the words of the prophet Micah, who praised God for pardoning sin and forgiving when we do wrong (Micah 7:18). The prophet uses wonderfully visual language to show just how far God goes in forgiving His people, saying that He will “tread our sins underfoot” and hurl our wrongdoings into the deep sea (v. 19). The firefighter received a gift of freedom that day, which brought him closer to God.

Whatever difficulty we face, we know that God reaches out to us with loving, open arms, welcoming us into His safe embrace. He “delights to show mercy” (v. 18). As we receive His love and grace, He gives us the strength to forgive those who hurt us—even as Pastor Erik did.

How do you respond to this story of amazing forgiveness? Can you think of someone you need to forgive? If so, ask God to help you.

- Our Daily Bread for today. January 22, 2020

Really consider that Pastor's reaction.  Wow.  That was indeed showing the love of Christ.  Now take it farther.  Suppose it was a harsher event, an actual horrific crime.  Could you still forgive as Christ did?

Because that's what we are called to do.  We are representing God. We are not God.

Our lives are going to have horrific events in them.  How we choose to react either will show the love of God, also known as grace, or show the world we haven't been changed by God. 

Consider that will you?  We can imagine a great many things to do to people who wrong us, or others. But what does God say?  What did Jesus say when He was being crucified?  Forgive them for they know not what they do. 

Some cannot fathom forgiveness on the scale that the Pastor in the story above showed.  

There's another story that I read several times over the years.  

A Pastor was getting ready to lead the evening service.  He takes to the podium and says that it's with great joy that a very great family friend of his was there that night and he asked him to say a few words.  The man was introduced as a former Pastor. 

The Pastor was taking his son and his best friend fishing on a small boat.  Trouble came in the form of a snap storm.  They were being tossed around.  Eventually they were out of the boat and in the water.  

The Pastor had to make a crushing decision.  Save his son or save his son's best friend.  He had but one rope to toss and could only save one of them. 

He knew his son was saved. He also knew his son's friend was not. The agony gripped him hard. 

He cried out "I love you Son!" And he threw the rope to his son's best friend.  In seconds his son was beneath the waves. 

He explains that while he knew where his heart was that day the choice was difficult.  To choose like that was the hardest thing he had ever done.  

Then he explains further.  You see your Pastor is my son's best friend.  

We will never know what showing God's Grace will do to the unbelieving in this world. 

We can't know what a kind word spoken when by all that seems right to the world we should be lashing out in anger. 

We can't know what God knows.  Scripture says He roams the Earth and searches the hearts of men.  That's paraphrasing a few places there. But realizing that only Jesus knows the exact set of circumstances, the exact words that can be said to exactly the right person at the right time...can show them that the right thing to do is to say yes to Jesus. 

That best friend of that Pastor's son saw the sacrifice that was made to save his life.  It was the turning point in his own life and he knew that to honor the sacrifice of his best friend's father, he needed to know more about what caused him to do it.

We as humans do not need help in considering how to do justice towards others, at least justice in our own eyes.  Our idea of justice can easily be as evil as what was done to us.

Don't think of it as your right to do anything towards another.  As a Christian we are to follow Christ. 

It's not what would Jesus do. 

It's what DID Jesus do. 

By practicing Grace we may be the person who brings another one step closer to Salvation as we also received. 

But I am so angry!  They did....

Jesus says...Oh my Child...I know...

But...but...God...what about justice!

Jesus says...did you receive the penalty for what you deserve?

Before you lash out at others today in anger, remember that you are representing Christ to the world.  Even in your own home, away from others.  You will give an account of your thoughts and actions and intentions before Christ.  We, as Christians, won't be judged by them...but it will cost us the rewards in Heaven we could have received. 

Think before you speak and before you react.  This is a personally hard lesson for me.  Many years ago I went through a rough patch after a semi truck ran a red light and hit me. At first I thought ok I am alive.  Nothing seems to be broken.  I was wrong, I had a broken arm.  The recovery period was excruciating. The lack of sleep.  The pain at times.  After the cast came off, I had to get back to driving. 

I had road rage towards all semi truck drivers.  I wanted someone to feel the pain of what I went through. I wanted justice! Then came the day when God called me out on it.

The shame of that day. 

Yes what I read in the headlines each day bothers me.  And this isn't my reaction all the time, but to pray for those who do such evil things is what we are called to do.  As long as they are breathing they too may become a child of God. 

Who knows when Christ will return? 

I do.

But you jump right to the passage about Jesus saying no man knows the day nor the hour. 

In that I don't know, but what I do know is the Father will not say it's time, to Jesus, until the last person who is to receive Christ is accomplished.  Will there be people saved throughout the Tribulation? Yes. But there is one individual who will be the last person to be saved before that Tribulation comes.

What if it's that person you show Grace and Mercy to that deserves the world's version of justice?

Think today of the fact that the first Christian that showed up in Sheole, was a thief who had been hanging on a cross for a crime.  Jesus promised him that he would be with Him in Paradise. 

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