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Finding Good in the Bad

It would be hard to find someone worse than Judas. Some say he was a good man with a backfired strategy. I don't buy that. The Bible says, "Judas...was a thief" (John 12:6). The man was a crook. Somehow he was able to live in the presence of God and experience the miracles of Christ and remain unchanged. In the end he decided he'd rather have money than a friend, so he sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver...Judas was a scoundrel, a cheat and a bum. How could anyone see him any other way?

I don't know, but Jesus did. Only inches from the face of his betrayer, Jesus looked at him and said, "Friend, do what you came to do" (Matthew 26:50). What Jesus saw in Judas as worthy of being called a friend, I can't imagine. But I do know that Jesus does not lie, and in that moment he saw something good in a very bad man...

He can help us do the same with those who hurt us.

                                  [from Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus]

 

 

 

 A Moment with God

        I attended a beautiful, Christ-centered wedding recently. I hadn't been to a wedding in many years, and so I gazed with fresh perspective on the magnificence of God's institution of marriage.

        The bride was a dark-haired beauty with a long white gown. I'm convinced that God's provision allows every woman to look more beautiful on her wedding day than any other day of her life. And the groom confidently wore a traditional, dark gray tuxedo--his dark hair and mustache combed without flaw.

        Then the special, poignant moment occurred that I'll always remember. The young couple announced their marriage ceremony Bible verse. I don't remember ever hearing such a focused occasion verse before at a a wedding. I'm sure it's done, but I was unaccustomed to it.

         I cherished the reading of the Scripture verse unlike most other public proclamations of the Bible before. The young couple selected Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have fore you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

        The rest of the ceremony went perfectly. I'm sure there were errors but it appeared perfect to me. And then the imperfect, flawed process of living together as husband and wife began. At that moment in time, however, God was totally in control, his Word reigned over the moment, and the perfection of God's marriage ceremony prevailed.

 

 

 Praise His Glorious Name

          Jesus refused to be guided by anything other than His high call. His heart was purposeful. Most lives aim at nothing in particular and achieve it. Jesus aimed at one goal--to save humanity from its sin. He could summarize His life with one sentence: 'For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost' Luke 19:10. Jesus was so focused on His task that He knew when to say, 'It is finished' John 19:30. But He was not so focused on His goal that He was unpleasant.

Quite the contrary. How pleasant were His thoughts! Children couldn't resist Jesus. He could find beauty all around Him, find joy in worship, and find possibilities in problems. He would spend days with the multitudes of sick people and still feel sorry for them. He spend over three decades wading through the muck and mire of our sin yet still saw enough beauty in us, felt enough love for us to die for our mistakes.

 

 

  Puppies, Butterflies and a Savior

        When I was ten years old, I had a puppy named Tina. You would have loved her. She was the perfect pet. An irresistible, pug-nosed Pekingese pup. One ear fell over and the other ear stood straight up. She never tired of playing and yet never got in the way.

        Her mother died when she was born so the rearing of the puppy fell to me. I fed her milk from a doll bottle and used to sneak out at night to see if she was warm. Iíll never forget the night I took her to bed with me only to have her mess on my pillow. We made quite a pair. My first brush with parenthood.

        One day I went into the backyard to give Tina her dinner. I looked around and spotted her in a corner near the fence. She had cornered a butterfly (in as much as one can corner a butterfly!) and was playfully yelping and jumping in the air trying to catch the butterfly in her mouth. Amused, I watched her for a few minutes and then called to her.

        "Tina! Come her, girl! Itís time to eat!"

        What happened next surprised me. Tina stopped her playing with the butterfly and looked at me. But instead of immediately scampering to me, she sat back on her haunches. The she tilted her head back looked at the butterfly, then looked back at me, then back to the butterfly and then back at me again. For the first time in her life, she had to make a decision.

        Her "want to" longed to pursue this butterfly, to continue to play with it as it tauntingly awaited her in midair. Her "should" knew she was supposed to stop and obey her master. A classic struggle of the will: a war between the "want" and the "should". This same question faces every adult at one time or another.

        So, what did my puppy do? She chased the butterfly! Scurrying and barking, jumping and leaping, she ignored my call, the call of her master and chased that silly butterfly until it flew over the fence.

        That is when the guilt hit.

        She stopped at the fence for a long time, sitting back on her hind legs looking up in the air where the butterfly had made its exit. Slowly, the excitement of the chase was overshadowed by the guilt of disobedience.

        She turned painfully and walked back to encounter her owner, her master that she had willfully disobeyed. Her head was ducked as she regretfully trudged across the yard.

        She had violated her "should" and had given in to her "want."

        Now, I may be overdoing it a bit. I donít know if a dog can really feel guilty or not. But a human can. And whether the sin is as slight as chasing a butterfly or as serious as sleeping with a woman outside of marriage, the effects are the same.

        Guilt creeps in and steals whatever joy might have flickered in our eyes. Confidence is replaced by doubt, and honesty is elbowed out by rationalization. Exit peace. Enter turmoil. Just as the pleasure of indulgence ceases, the hunger for relief begins.

        That, then, is the whole reason for the Cross.

        The Cross did what nothing else could do: It erased our sins, not for a year, but for eternity. The Cross did what man could not do. It granted us the right to talk with, love and even live with God.

        You canít do that by yourself. I donít care how many worship services you attend or good deeds you do, your goodness is insufficient. Thatís why we need a Savior.

        What my little puppy needed was exactly what you and I need: a master who would extend His hands and say, "Come on, thatís ok." We donít need a master who will judge us on our performance, or weíll fall woefully short. Trying to make it to Heaven on our own goodness is like trying to get to the moon on a moonbeam; nice idea, but try it an see what happens.  You need a Savior.     [from Max Lucado]

 

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