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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wagon with mums
We passed this old wagon loaded with colorful mums in Manor Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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"The Free Gift"

"Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Romans 5:18).

Dunkin Donuts FredFor many years Fred was the official spokesman for Dunkin Donuts. I am sure a few readers will remember him, especially those in the New England area where Dunkin Donuts populates just about every block in any city.  Steve Higgins, a friend from our church in New England, knew Fred personally. He told me that he was the same in person as the loveable and fun actor he played in the frequent commercials Dunkin Donuts aired. He recalls Fred speaking in his twin daughters' school and a little boy asking why they didn't make a peanut butter and jelly donut.

When Fred retired in 1997 Dunkin Donuts made a big deal about it.  In honor of his retirement on one special, heavily-promoted day they gave out a free cup of coffee and donut at every shop to every customer.  That surely amounted to a lot of coffee and donuts!

Dunkin Donuts coffeeWell, I especially like anything that's free so I stopped at a shop and got in the long line for my free donut and cup of coffee.  I figured everybody knew about the offer since it was so heavily promoted, but the man ahead of me apparently hadn't heard.

He first tried to pay outright after he made the order but the lady behind the counter explained to him that it was free. When he received his gratis order he also received a free button honoring Fred which offered a future cup of coffee and donut for the discounted price of $1.25.   He even tried to pay for that.  Even as he walked out of the shop, I'm not sure that he ever really got it.

There's a parallel here to salvation. I like an old hymn that states:

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

Notice the glorious phrase in our daily verse "so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men."  That's the very best free gift in all eternity!  It is available to all people; men and women, boys and girls, from every tribe and language. The Scriptures proclaim "to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

Actually when many of us hear "free gift" we wonder if it's a gimmick. We've been conditioned to think that way. I get lots of offers for free gifts accompanied by small print informing me that I pay only shipping and handling. Well, that may very well end up costing more than I would have been willing to pay for the item in the first place!

But God's free gift to the human race is not a gimmick. Jesus said "freely ye have received, freely give."

But so many are like the man in front of me at Dunkin Donuts who expressed with frustration, "I must owe something."  Indeed, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, but Jesus washed it white as snow."  Or as another old chorus puts it, "He paid a debt He did not owe.  I owed a debt I could not pay.  I needed Someone to wash my sins away….Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay."  Have you received the free gift of salvation?  Are you living as a child of God and walking in the joy of knowing that your sins are forgiven?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, Your grace is amazing, far beyond the natural circumstances of life, so that it requires a heart of faith if we are to receive the free gift of Your salvation.  Thank You for your greatest sacrifice when You sent Your only Son, Jesus, to die in our place. Through His righteous act where He paid fully with His very life, we received the free gift of salvation available to all who will call upon the name of the Lord.

Yesterday we shared a message about ministering to children. Several weeks ago we received an interesting letter from Cecily in eastern Europe and an astounding example of ministry to "the least of these" (according to the world's reckoning). We had written about people who, though verbally unresponsive in a comatose like state, can often hear those who speak to them.  Cecily gave us permission to share her touching story:

I was reading your message, "Not In Vain".  I was in a car accident in 1968 when I was only 2 years old.  I suffered a serious brain injury as a result of this accident and was not given much hope for survival.  I was in a coma for three weeks.  While I was in the coma I was in ICU, and my parents were allowed to visit me for very short segments of time due to the hospital restrictions.  My dad tells me how he used to come and sing to me, "Mary had a little..." and, in my comatose state I would finish his sentence with "lamb."  After being in a coma for three weeks, the doctor said that nothing more could be done for me and I was sent home while I was still in a coma.  Soon after I went home I awoke from the coma and the Lord continued to heal and restore me, amazing those who had given such a dismal prognosis for me. 

And now, at age 43, I am a healthy woman caring for orphans with special needs in a foreign land.  So I give praise to the Lord for all of His wonderful work in my life, and for the honor I have to work with ten precious children who have been cast off and neglected by the world.  These children were similar to those in a comatose condition because they had been so neglected and were so silent they didn't know how to engage with others. But as I have had the honor of loving them, singing to them, praying for them, etc. I have seen them awaken and respond in their own ways to the love of the Lord that flows through me.  Some of them are still very quiet, but others verbalize, laugh and smile as I interact with them.  When I sing with them, they sometimes sing with me in their own little way.

The reason I was reading your devotional was because I am looking to the Lord for further healing in my life.  I understand that when I was in a coma, I felt very much alone because my parents weren't allowed to be with me during this most stressful time.  And, as I am sure you know, at the age of 2 a child really needs the loving care of his parents.  So I am asking the Lord to bring healing to that emotional place in my life.  As I was listening to the Chris Tomlin song that you provided on this devotional site, I heard the words of Jesus suffering and dying alone.  And I know that He was truly alone in His suffering for me.  As the 2 year old child in the ICU, I felt utterly alone, but the truth is that Jesus was there.  He suffered alone for me so that I would never have to be alone.  I want this truth to penetrate the depths of my heart and emotions so that there is no longer a sense of emptiness, abandonment and loneliness in my life. Thanks for taking the time to read these thoughts.

Seth Matthew Pierce (09-23-09)Yesterday afternoon we received exciting news from our friend Ken. His wife Nila had just delivered Seth Matthew, and he wanted us to know. We stopped by the Women's & Babies Hospital in Lancaster late yesterday afternoon after picking Ester up where she works at nearby TJ  Maxx. We made a brief visit to the family and heard Seth's healthy lungs at work.  Nila is a good sport to pose for a photo after giving birth only six hours earlier.

Seth Matthew Pierce (09-23-09)Ester enjoyed holding Seth for a few minutes and looks forward to caring for him when  he's old enough to join the other two that she watches  during a small group Bible study.  
Here's a photo we took two years ago when his big brother David was born. We rejoiced with Ken and Nila as they are filled with great joy over their new addition. We then prayed together giving thanks to God before we left.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"I Stand Amazed In The Presence"  Video  

"Jesus Paid It All"  Video

"Child, You're Forgiven"  Video  This song has such powerful lyrics expressing our dependency on God and His provision!

"Only By Grace"  Audio

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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