Hearing the Jesus Story, Again, for the First Time
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
I grew up in a godly Christian home. My earliest memory is of being held in my mother's arms in a church service, as the communion plate was being passed. I reached out a chubby hand for a handful of crackers, and was forced by a firm hand to put them all back!
Before I was five years old, I had asked Jesus to be my Savior. I was very confident that He'd answered my childish prayer, though big sister Grace said she didn't think my prayer had worked. You were supposed to cry when you asked Jesus to forgive you, and I had smiled. She had no idea how relieved and happy I was that Jesus and I were at last friends. I had a lot of bad things on my conscience!
So from infancy I have heard the wonderful story that God loved His whole world so very much that He gave His Son, His own dear, beloved Son, to die on the cross, so that we could have forgiveness of sin and enjoy the delights of heaven forever. I don't think I've ever been bored by the story. I am always awed when I think about it, that God would love me so much He would make such a terrible sacrifice for my sake.
But last Sunday something happened that brought it all back to me in its vivid freshness, alsmost as if I'd never heard it before.
I sat down in my usual spot in the church auditorium. I introduced myself to the young couple sitting behind me. They seemed a little nervous, so I asked them if this was their first visit. "Yes."
"And how did you find us?"
"Your web site."
"I'm not going to give you a sales pitch for the church," I said, smiling, "but I promise you that you will hear God's Word today and you will be blessed and encouraged by it."
The young man looked at me with eyes full of yearning. "I hope so. We really need it."
The service opened with wonderful music celebrating God's overwhelming love for us, with its promise of joy and peace no matter how difficult the path of life. The message was simple and understandable, filled with many clear Bible verses to reinforce what was being taught. I sat there, listening to every word through the ears of the young couple behind me. Oh, did you hear that? Just think! That's how much God loves you! And here's another comforting proof-!
At the end of the service, I sat for a moment, overwhelmed with the sweet story of salvation and redemption, because I'd heard it through the ears of someone who might never have heard the story before.
Here's what that dear blind woman, Fanny Crosby, wrote:
Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard . . .
Love in that story so tender, Clearer than ever I see,
Stay, let me weep while you whisper, "Love paid the ransom for me" . . .
Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard!
I can't tell you how the story of this young couple ends, because they were gone by the time I turned to talk to them after the service. But they did hear "that story most precious," that Jesus loves them. It's a story that never grows old, thank God!
Enough Is Enough Already!
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Thanksgiving . . . #Black Friday. . . #Cyber Monday. . . #Giving Tuesday. I'm afraid that tomorrow may turn out to be #Bankrupt Day.
Did you have a lovely Thanksgiving? Our family enjoyed it: a celebration of God's great love for us. I hope that was true for you, wherever you found yourself that day.
But after Thanksgiving came Black Friday. Why black Friday? They say the Philadelphia police labeled it that in 1966 when it brought "massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing."
The statistics are daunting. Kimberly Amadeo says. "Since 2010, Black Friday violence has resulted in 10 deaths and 111 injuries. The worst Black Friday occurred in 2008 when a man was trampled to death. Despite being 6'5" and 270 pounds, an employee died of asphyxiation when crowds stampeded into the store. At least 2,000 people broke down the doors, trapping the worker in a vestibule where he suffocated. Eleven other shoppers were also injured, including a pregnant woman."
A riot on Friday after giving thanks to God on Thursday? A frantic day of buying stuff because it's a bargain, and elbowing everybody else out of the way? People pushing people to gain a pitifully small advantage to buy a gift for someone who might not need it, and which will perhaps be obsolete, or lost, or stolen within a few short years?
Enough is enough already! Surely there must be a better way! There is:
Don't be selfish;
don't live to make a good impression on others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.
Don't think only about your own affairs,
but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:3-5
And what was the attitude of the dear Lord Jesus?
Though He was God,
He did not demand and cling to His rights as God.
He made Himself nothing;
He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.
And in human form He obediently humbled himself even further
by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-9
Hooray for Christmas gifts, yes, because through them we express our love for others. But how wonderful to buy with an attitude of humility and joy-and thoughtfulness for others who also want to express their love with gifts.