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But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 NIV

We live in a world that idolizes heroes and rightfully so. A Good Samaritan stops to pull an injured person from a burning car and then, the mayhem that follows, disappears when emergency crews arrive.

A fireman or by-stander races into a burning home to rescue a person inside, only to die in the attempt.

A mother dies saving the lives of her children as a tornado pours debris down on her. The children survive because of the body shield she made.

A child calls 9-1-1 and as a result a loved one is taken to the hospital just in time, a life is saved.

We love hearing these stories. Stories of people in the right place at the right time, performing a feat of bravery and ignoring the risk to their own lives. They make us smile. They give us hope. They become a bright light in the darkness.

But what would we think if every time someone tried to save another person that person climbed right back into the danger? The wounded person drags himself across the pavement to climb back into the burning fire; the rescued person dashes back into the burning house; the injured loved one refuses treatment once the ambulance arrives and dies on the floor.

Preposterous you may say and you’d be right. But such is the story of Jesus Christ. He went to the cross knowing that the very people he died for would continue to sin. He went to the cross realizing that for many, his death would be in vain, not because their sin was too great, but because of their refusal to seek his forgiveness.

Jesus is the ultimate hero. The heroes we read about in the newspapers save people from physical harm and death, Jesus saves us from the hidden wounds of the heart and gives us eternal life. The wounds on our bodies can heal with time, but only Jesus can heal the eternal wounds of the heart. He is our ultimate hero and he did it knowing we’d rush right back in and need to be rescued again.

As one writer said, “It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross. It was your sin.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus I thank you for rescuing me. There is no reason I deserve your kindness. There is no reason you should have endured the pain of the cross on my behalf. But I thank you for your mercy, grace and forgiveness. Amen.

He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Philippians 3:21(NLT)

When I was in third grade we had a big jar on a table in the corner. Every day when we first came to class we’d all go back to the jar to see if anything had changed. We waited excitedly to see what would happen to the small, grayish looking cocoon hanging from a twig in the jar. I don’t remember how long we watched for a change, but it seemed like a year.

Finally, one of my classmates called across the room for the teacher to come look! We as a class scurried back to the jar as well. The cocoon was breaking! “Official class work” was delayed as we all gathered around the small table. Where once hung a small, rather ugly chrysalis, now hung a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Nothing at all like the small, crawling insect it once was.

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul promises each of us that one day this shell of a body we wear on a daily basis will undergo a wonderful transformation. This weak shell of a body will be changed from the inside out! God’s word doesn’t tell us much about this new body but here are some things we know.

We’ll never grow tired or hungry; we’ll never be sad or disappointed; we’ll never be sick; never hurt; there will be no handicapped parking or hospitals or cancer centers or rehab centers of funeral homes. We catch a slight glimpse of what that will be like with Jesus. Someday our bodies will be like his. He could walk through doors; he could eat; he could move instantly from one place to another and then disappear.

That may sound pretty good for you today. You may be tired. You may be struggling with wounds from abuse, war, relational distress or economic disaster. You may wonder if you can make it through one more day without completely falling apart. Your body hurts, your heart aches and your brain seems to be saturated with things to worry about. You may feel just plain ugly and useless.

Listen to the words of Paul. You are in the process of being transformed. The process takes time. The process often includes pain. The process may seem never ending. But the process isn’t in your control. It’s not determined by religion or politics or the enemy (Satan). The process, every step of the way, is guided by Jesus. He loves you more than life itself. His intention is to someday make you a beautiful butterfly, to change your body from what it is into a glorious, perfect, beautiful being. The Bible says each of us will be completely healed by his wounds so that we will be weak no more!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling sick. I’m tired of being in physical pain. I’m tired of having my heart hurt so badly. I feel more like a crawling insect than a beautiful butterfly. I realize life will be a struggle until I see you in all your beauty. For now, I ask for strength to get through the day. Thank you that my transformation is powered by your grace and out of my control. I can’t wait to see you and to experience the joy of my spiritual Matamoras’s. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. Psalm 27:4 (NLT)

Where does God live? Is there any building that can contain him? Does he have a street address? A post office box? A quaint walkway leading up from some street in heaven to the front porch, complete with wicker rocking chair?

Of course not! There is no place that can contain him. The idea of God being some kindly old gentleman sitting on his porch watching the world go by as he sips on a cool glass of lemonade is preposterous! And the notion that we can escape God’s presence is clearly spoken against in Scripture. For no one can find a hiding place where God does not already dwell. 

So what does David mean that he wants to dwell in the house of the Lord all of his days and meditate in his Temple?

Here’s what I think it means. David, the man after God’s own heart, knew that his God was everywhere. He himself writes, ‘Where can I go to escape your presence’. But David never, ever wanted to forget that he was in the presence of almighty God.

During our times of loneliness he wants us to remember that God is our constant friend. During those times we of rebel and sin he wants us to remember that God is a merciful and forgiving Father. During times of illness he wants us to remember that our Heavenly Father holds the soothing oil of healing and is ready and willing to apply it to our lives. During those times when relationships fail and leave us emotionally wounded, he wants us to remember that true comfort comes from his touch.

With our Heavenly Father as our Lord we need not ever feel alone or forgotten or unforgiven. We need never feel that once we have fallen there is no getting up. He never loses sight of us even though sin and worry and guilt can keep us from seeing him.

Because of the grace offered through Jesus Christ our Lord we need never feel that God is not near. Nothing can keep us from enjoying his presence if we but come to him and ask.

PRAYER: Father God. I praise you today for the promise of your constant companionship and friendship along every step of this journey we call life. There are so many times I’ve felt alone or forgotten. So many times people and religion  have let me down, but no more. From this day forward I ask that I may always sense your presence with me. Through the power of your Holy Spirit I ask that you never let me forget that you are with me. In you I rest. In you I find all comfort. For I am never apart from your presence. Amen.

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12

Grace is what keeps us going when the enemy slams us to the ground. What’s even harder to deal with is the fact that often times we get slammed to the ground as a result of our own stumbling. The bruises we inflict on ourselves are often the most painful and hardest to recover from. This can be especially true when we fall as a result of the same sins, the same mistakes, the same bad choices on what seems to be a regular basis.

The enemy wants us to forget about grace. He wants to hold us down and keep us from getting back into the battle. What motivates us to pick ourselves up and try again when we know we have a good chance of failing once again? What keeps us from listening to the voices of guilt, shame and embarrassment?

For the football player it’s just plain determination. Ever seen a player get slammed to the ground by a person from the other team and bounce back up and make the play? His tenacity refuses to let the pain of being ‘taken out’ by his aggressor stop him from succeeding. He shrugs off the possibility of further attack and moves on.

For the football player it’s tenacity, but for us as Christ-followers it’s grace that keeps us going when the enemy slams us to the ground. It’s grace that soothes the painful bruises of every fall, heals the wounds of wayward desires and reminds us that we can succeed because of Jesus love and forgiveness. Grace is the source of courage for everyone who chooses to follow Christ. Grace is the lens through which our Father watches us.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers that God continued to try to work with his stubborn people, but they continued to rebel, continued to ignore his pleas for relationship and continued to go their own way.

Then Jesus came and everything changed. Because of Jesus sacrificial death on the cross and his triumphant victory over sin and death, God can have the relationship he has always wanted with us. Grace seals us so that when we fall we can get up and continue on.

If you have stumbled in your walk with God. If you are afraid to get up and try again because you are sure you will just get slammed to the ground again, remember that God’s forgiveness not only takes away the guilt of poor, rebellious choices, it gives us the confidence and courage we need to have the spiritual tenacity to get up and get back in the ballgame. 

Don’t let the enemies of guilt, shame, embarrassment and religion hold you down. Don’t listen to the constant reminders of your failures. The forgiveness you have in Jesus Christ empowers you to live victoriously. Remember that God looks at you through the perfect lens of Jesus’ forgiveness.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you for grace. I praise you for the fact that because of Jesus I can be completely forgiven. Help me to live in the confidence and courage grace gives me to live life the way you want me to live it. Let grace empower me with courage in the midst of my stumbling. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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