Financial calculationWhen I was a teenager, I got my first paying job at a fast food restaurant. My mom helped me open a checking account.

I felt like big stuff having a checking account. I loved that I had the power to write checks.

I loved that power too much.

My mom carefully taught me how to balance my checkbook. For a short time, I kept up with it. After that, I sort of estimated. Or just believed the money would be there.

My mom insisted I balance the checkbook one night, and I realized something very important.

The check I’d written that day was going to bounce. It wasn’t even a check for stuff I needed, but just stuff I’d wanted to have.

I felt embarrassed about it, and I tried to brush it off as no big deal. But Mom wouldn’t have it.

Mom told me the store could put my name on display at the registers for the clerks to look at, to make sure not to accept anymore checks from me. And, to top it off, the bank doesn’t look keenly on bounced checks and charges an overdraft fee—and I didn’t even have any money in savings for the bank to draw from.

After I realized more of the gravity of the situation, Mom told me she would pay the debt—I think the check was for something like $200 and much of the money I didn’t have.

I didn’t realize it at the time nearly so much as I see it now, but my mother was presenting a clear picture of the Gospel for me that day.

First, God gives us the freedom to choose how we will spend our lives. But in Adam, we all chose to turn away from God and now we have a sin nature that makes right choices impossible apart from Christ.

Second, we all get in debt to sin. And not sinning for things we need—just things we want. We have no excuse for the sin we get ourselves into. We’re careless about getting ourselves into sin. We don’t realize the full consequences.

Third, we defend ourselves when confronted with sin. We try to brush it off or justify it as if it’s no big deal—or we regress into self-pity and remorse.

Fourth, God convicts us of our sin. We see that we have no excuse and that we have no way out on our own.

Fifth, God offers to pay our debt. We can start all over again, debt free, by belief in His Son. (For someone who is already a Christian who sins, we get a fresh start in our walk with Him.)

This miracle is made possible by grace. God takes our debt—sure to bounce back to us on Judgment Day—and pays it all off. He takes on our poverty, and we inherit His righteousness. This is the power of the cross.

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14, NLT)


The story of grace

I failed . . and you loved me again.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23, NASB)

Published in: on February 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Favorite quote from “Bringing Up Bobby”

“Life’s . . not about being happy.  But Jesus gives us the chance to stop living like Hell’s our fate.  You’ve got to figure out where you stand so when this junk happens you’ll be ready for it.  It’s either Jesus or the world.  No more sitting on the fence . . .

“It’s time to face it.  Being open with God about your sins, about your struggles–it’s not a good feeling.  But being forgiven by Him is.  That’s your real identity: forgiven.  It’s time to let go of Hell.  Stop mourning.  Own this thing.”

–“James” (Marc Thompson), from Bringing Up Bobby

Christmas Countdown: Day 13

Dear Lord,

It’s Your gift, my only chance for Heaven, and yet the hardest thing for me to give others.

I pray for forgiveness.

I pray I will receive forgiveness from You, because without it, I have no access to Heaven.  Without forgiveness, the gate is forever shut.

And I pray I will give forgiveness to everyone who hurts me.  You make it clear that, once You gave forgiveness to the world through Jesus Christ, You expected the world to respond with forgiveness to each other.

There is no wound anyone could ever inflict on me that could compare to the wound I inflicted on You at the cross.

I pray for forgiveness.  Forgiveness for me, forgiveness that pours over my life to drench everyone in my path.  It’s not my forgiveness, Lord, You know it’s not.  It’s Your forgiveness, shared through me, only because You gave it to me in the first place.

I love You, Jesus.

And I pray for forgiveness.

In Jesus’ Name,


O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5, NLT)

He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. (1 Timothy 2:6, NLT)

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NLT)

“with only a wall”–from Ezekiel 43:8

“They put their idol altars right next to mine with only a wall between them and me.” (Ezekiel 43:8a, NLT)

God is talking about people who are supposed to be His people who have the audacity, in God’s Temple, to add their idols to God’s manifestation of glory . . . with a dividing wall between them.  As if God is going to be okay with that.

The Lord said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel. They and their kings will not defile my holy name any longer by their adulterous worship of other gods or by honoring the relics of their kings who have died. They put their idol altars right next to mine with only a wall between them and me. They defiled my holy name by such detestable sin, so I consumed them in my anger. Now let them stop worshiping other gods and honoring the relics of their kings, and I will live among them forever. (Ezekiel 43:7-9, NLT)

Isn’t that incomprehensible?  Isn’t that unbelievable?  First, that people would dare put their ridiculous little idols (and the word the Bible often uses in the Old Testament, the commentary in my NLT says, is thought to be connected to the word “dung”) . . . and then that God would forgive them?  That He would let them come back?

But the idols have to lose their place.

Now this seems crazy: God is willing to take back these lunatic people, and all He wants is for them to live in His holiness without accessorizing with their sin?  It’s a free gift.  It’s simply coming into the Presence of God and loving Him.  Who could possibly have a problem with that?


I don’t go to the Temple of God and put wooden idols in the room beside God’s majesty.  But the Scripture tells me that, when I accepted Christ, I became part of the Temple of God.  That means any time I allow idolatry into my mind and heart . . . I am placing an idol right next to the glory of God.  I may think I’ve carefully divided off that idol from the Presence of God . . . but that’s as crazy as thinking God will be okay with a man-made object of junk worship in the room next to Him.  That’s not how it works.  God doesn’t ask for 10% of us, or 50% of us, or even 90% of us.  God wants all of us to be purely devoted to Him.

That means if something’s standing in the way . . . if anything’s standing in the way . . . I have to put it outside the Temple.  I can’t allow it in my mind or heart.  No matter how tempting, no matter how seemingly innocent, no matter how world-approved, no matter how funny, no matter how secularly justifiable, no matter how pleasurable . . . it’s got to go.  And now.  Now of now.

God deserves better than for me to hoard my sin in the room next to Him and try to get by with a partition.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19a, NIV)


Photograph by Tim Snell, profile on

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

All Has Been Forgiven

Well I know what it means to be shackled by my worst mistakes

And I know what it means to be to set free

‘Cause I fell at the cross as broken as I’ve ever been

It was there I heard my Savior sing

All has been forgiven, every sin is lifted

Let your chains fall away

–All Has Been Forgiven, Mark Schultz

Worse off

The servant ends up worse off than before.

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 

“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.  For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.  When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him.  Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt.

“At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’  Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

“But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii.  He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’

“At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he wasn’t willing.  On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed.  When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened.

“Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave!  I forgave  you all that debt because you begged me.  Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’  And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers until he could pay everything that was owed.  So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35, HCSB)

I don’t want to end up worse off than before.

I want my forgiveness for others to be as real as the forgiveness I want to receive from God.

If I’m not planning on forgiving, I would be better off not asking for God’s forgiveness.  I would be better off than receiving God’s forgiveness through the death of Jesus Christ and then failing to forgive others.

If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.  (Matthew 6:14-15, CEV)

Limiting forgiveness?

I remember reading one time in a self-help book that we don’t have to forgive what is not done to us.  In other words, if someone hurts my friend, that burden of forgiveness is not mine to forgive.  After all, it wasn’t done against me, it was done against my friend.

Well, that made since to me, but then, that means absolutely nothing.  What I should have asked back then was: Does this follow in line with God’s thinking, as He revealed Himself through His Word?

What about when David murdered God’s friend, Uriah?  Did God not have to forgive David because the sin was done towards Uriah?  What about when God forgave Manasseh, who burned his children alive in a fire?  Did God not have to forgive Manasseh because the sin was done towards the children and not to Him?

What about Peter?  Did God the Father not have to forgive Peter for what he did to Jesus when Peter denied he knew Jesus three times in His time of greatest need?

God affirms a bond to us when He says,

“‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 25:40b)

God does feel our pain.  And He does have to forgive us for the pain we cause others.

God not only created us bonded to Him, but He also created us to bond with each other.  When we see someone hurt someone else, we, too, are hurt (I hope).  We should not witness evil and be unmoved.  Sin is not committed against one individual.  Sin is committed against God, and, as such, it affects all of His creation.

When someone sins against us, those of us who are Christ followers must forgive them.  But even when someone sins against someone we love, if we follow Christ, we must forgive them because they have done something against us—knowingly or unknowingly.  They have hurt us by hurting someone we love.  And we can forgive them for the pain they have caused us–but only through Jesus.

Forgiveness is a painful thing.  It hurts and, contrary to popular belief, it is not therapeutic.  That misses the whole point of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is about blessing the other person, not blessing myself.  It’s about blessing someone when they should be cursed; loving someone when they should be hated.

But why on earth would we do such a thing?  I know why I would.  For every one thing I could find to forgive, God has forgiven me ten billion more.  My life is utterly hopeless without God’s forgiveness, not just His forgiveness of what I have done against Him, but His forgiveness of what I have done against all I have sinned against.

Thinking this way, then, forgiving others of all they have done that causes me pain—whether it was done directly against me or done against me by hurting someone I love—is the only way for me to be.  It is the only way I can reflect, in a tiny and broken way, the love shown me by God.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV)

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own people holy and dearly loved, with tender-heartedness, kindness, lowliness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another and readily forgiving each other, if any one has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13, Weymouth)

Does God want everyone to be saved?

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, ESV)

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. (2 Peter 3:15, NIV)

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his [God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4, NIV)

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins.  Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God–something the law of Moses could never do.  (Acts 13:39, NLT)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise.  In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.  And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.  And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit.  It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:20-25, NLT)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NASB)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Package in the Mail

For as long as I can remember, I have loved getting packages in the mail.  I think almost everybody does.  Sometimes, in fact, I have ordered stuff, almost as much for the sake of the package as for its contents!  The lonelier I have been, the more I have longed for packages.  I remember at one low in my teenage life where my soul seemed like a desert wasteland, I got a catalog to order monthly “keepsakes”: figurines of all kinds.  I actually planned how I could get a job in order to spend all my money on packages!

Although I’ve done my share of ordering “stuff” for the accomplishment of receiving it in the mail, nothing I can order for myself is quite so thrilling as getting an unknown package from someone else.

I remember one time when I was eight getting a big package in the mail.  A huge package!  A GINORMOUS package!!  It was addressed to my mom, but my mom said I could have it.

I was elated.  I almost didn’t want to open it, I was so excited about the mystery.  The address was curiously strange: Kodak, like the kind of film my mom used in her camera.  I knew this was not a camera.  This was definitely not a camera!  The package itself was light—even I could carry it, if I could finagle my arms around its bulkiness.  The package smelled like happy mailing cardboard.  It was taped professionally with that dark tape that makes a scritching sound when you pull it out from the dispenser.  It was addressed to my mother, all right, but she had given it to me, and now it was mine! 

At last (probably a total of two seconds later), I decided to open it.  Mom asked me if I wanted help, and, since I did, she helped me with scissors.  I could never have gotten that open by myself without catastrophe!

The second I looked inside the box was a moment of sheer wonder and glib joy, delight and discovery wound together.  In the bottom of that box were four very bright things.  I did not know what they were.  One kind-of looked like a rabbit.  One kind-of looked like a bear.  One kind-of looked like a mouse.  And one, well, I had no idea what it was supposed to be.

It was all coming back to me now.  There had been a promotion going on with Kodak film.  If you bought enough film, you could send off for one of four stuffed animals.  If you bought bazookas of film, you could send off for all four.  My mom had saved up all her Kodak films from our vacation (and probably gotten some extras, too).  She’d sent off and gotten me the complete set of Kodak Kolorkins, something I had neither the resources or the ability nor even the awareness to do myself!

You know, this simple little story from my childhood reminds me of the ultimate surprise package humanity has gotten: forgiveness!  Forgiveness is one of those things none of us can send off for.  We don’t have the resources, no matter how many “good works” we try to collect.  And we don’t have the ability, no matter how skilled we may be.  And we don’t even have the awareness!  Without God’s explanation of sin, we would never have even known we needed forgiveness!

We are all lonely, and we all need this surprise package of forgiveness.  No friends, no family can replace the relationship between God and people which Adam destroyed through his disobedience.  We are in a hopeless state, pining for something we have no way of sending for and no way of receiving.

God’s forgiveness has arrived!  It’s sitting on your doorstep, waiting for you to open!  God delivers His forgiveness!  He freely gives it to us, even though we don’t deserve it and Jesus Christ is the one who has earned it for us!  And just as God delivers forgiveness and gives it to us who least deserve it, He will also help us open it!  We don’t know how to handle such a big and overwhelming package as God’s grace, but if you ask Him, He will help you unpackage it and see what bright and wonderful marvel awaits inside!

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jesus, quoted in John 6:40, NIV)

O how deep are God’s riches, and wisdom, and knowledge!  How unfathomable are His decisions and unexplainable are His ways! (Romans 11:33, ISV)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:10a, ESV)

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5, NIV)

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.  Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10, ISV)

He [God] rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of His dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. (Colossians 1:13-14, GNT)


Scripture taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.