Story: Why Did You Give Me This?

gift

Ryan looked up from the pages of the how-to-code book with a sigh. This was sooooo hard! His eyes wandered out the window to where his brothers were throwing a ball their father had given them. Why couldn’t his father have given him something easy to use too? He was frustrated…and afraid of failing.

“I gave you just what you need.” Ryan’s father’s voice startled him. Ryan had forgotten his father was sitting right there.

“It’s just so hard,” Ryan muttered.

His father smiled. “Of course it is. You know, I never expected you to do it alone. I’m right here and can help you.”

Ryan looked back at the frustrating coding pages. He would try again…this time, with his father’s help.

The book was still tough, but it made such a difference to do it with his father! A  strange thing began to happen. He began to actually enjoy his coding assignment and become thankful his father had given him it. Truly, his father had known what was best!

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NASB)

“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (NASB)

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Instantly Fit?

Instantly Fit?

Cherie knew she wasn’t as strong as she needed to be. Somehow, exercise just never made the top of the to-do list.

One day, she decided to change. She began exercising.

But as she did so, she quickly became discouraged. She couldn’t keep up with the people in the exercise video. Her muscles screamed at her after just half the repetitions. Plus, old injuries began hurting again. Hadn’t she already rehabilitated that knee? Why was it causing problems yet again?

“I just can’t do it,” she moaned to her friend Anna.

Anna’s reply surprised her. “Why, Cherie, did you expect to get fit overnight?”

“Well…” Cherie wasn’t sure how to reply. In a way, she sort of had.

“Cherie, it takes training and work to get strong. Don’t give up just because you’re not instantly fit.”

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV

Story: Swallowing Poison Again?

Jared had been brought up on a very unusual diet—or I should say unusual to us. In the prison in which he was born to one of the prisoners, it was the standard fare. All of the inmates were fed poisoned food. Yes, that’s right—the food had poison in it—the sort of slow poison that gradually weakened and killed over many years.

The amazingly good news was that Jared was no longer a prisoner. He’d been ransomed and set free. In fact, he’d been adopted by the most wonderful father you could imagine.

So you might imagine Jared’s brother Ethan’s surprise when he walked into the room and saw Jared eating poisoned food.

“Jared, why are you eating that again?” his brother Ethan asked.

Jared shrugged. “I just can’t help it,” he mumbled. “I’ve always eaten this.”

Ethan grabbed the plate out of his brother’s hands. “You can to help it!” he replied. “Father set you free—you’re not a prisoner. You don’t have to eat this anymore. There’s lots of good food to be had.”

Jared reached for the plate. “Just leave me alone for now. I’m just so tired—I need this.”

“You’ll only get more tired eating that,” Ethan remarked. “Come on, Jared, don’t you remember how this poison works? It messes with your mind, so you can’t think clearly. It takes away your energy, so you’re unable to accomplish anything of value. It slowly destroys you.”

Jared did remember. Oh, why was he swallowing poison again?

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2 (ESV)

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV)

Story: Always a Way of Escape

“We’ve got you now.”

The evil voice came over the loudspeaker, with a hideous laugh.

Sam shuddered. It did indeed seem as if he was trapped. Hedges surrounded him on every side, looming above him and alongside him, as if they were about to devour him. All around was darkness. It was hopeless. Despair gripped his heart.

“I’ll always provide a way of escape”—his father’s words rang through his mind.

Sam looked around. He sure didn’t see a way to escape this. But his father never lied. “Father, show me the way of escape,” he cried. He looked closer at the hedges. Was that an opening he saw? There seemed to be a faint light coming through.

Sam moved closer to investigate. Sure enough, where before all had appeared to be darkness, he now could clearly see a small tunnel in the hedge. It wasn’t necessarily easy fitting through it, but Sam could make it. He got on his hands and knees and crawled through the hedge. The branches poked him, but on the other side—yes, it was true—he was free!

His father had indeed provided a way of escape—he just had to look for it.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

Short Story: Truth Glasses

Darkness—oppressive darkness. It was all Emma could see. No matter which way she looked, there it was staring back at her. Each path she could take led to the same thing: more darkness. What had become of light? Did it even exist anymore?

Perhaps it did, somewhere. Emma knew at the end of her journey there’d be light. But there was no more light on the journey, of that she felt sure.

Emma’s last several miles had been filled with obstacles. Now all she could see were dark shadows stretching out before her.

“It’s just so discouraging,” Emma moaned to her traveling companion, Sarah. “I’m not sure why my father set me on this journey in the first place.”

“Okay, I know it seems discouraging,” Sarah replied. “But you’re not seeing the truth, Emma. Yes, there’s darkness, but there’s light too. There’s night, but there’s also day. You’ve got to put those glasses on.”

“Glasses?” Emma asked listlessly.

“Yes, you know, the ones your father gave you.”

Right—the glasses. Her father had given her glasses to help her see the world as it really was. Emma was pretty sure the glasses wouldn’t change anything—that she was already seeing everything accurately—but she pulled them out and dutifully held them up to her eyes anyway.

Wait—there was light amid what before had seemed only darkness! What a difference it made to look at the situation through the lenses of truth.


“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:7 (ESV)

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” John 8:31-32 (ESV)

Short Story: The Private Who Expected Steak

Justin walked around the army camp dejected. He was a new recruit and was still getting used to army life.

Nothing so far was going the way he’d pictured. He wanted steak for dinner—or at least something edible—but instead was served a pot of something or other that tasted more akin to poison. He wanted a soft bed to lie on, but instead he had to sleep on the bare ground. Was a mattress too much to expect?

“Hey, why the long face?” Mark said with a friendly pat on the shoulder.

Justin explained his woes. “Life is just so hard,” he wined. “Why does it have to be this way?”

To his surprise, Mark looked like he was working hard to restrain a laugh. “Did you really think the army would be easy?”

“Would you please explain what is so funny?” Justin asked.

“Sorry,” Mark apologized, trying to put on a serious look. “It’s just, well, Justin, you joined an army, not a restaurant.”

Justin squirmed. Mark was right. He’d been forgetting what really mattered.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” 2 Timothy 2:3-6 (ESV)

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)

Short Story: Failed Again

Short Story: Failed Again

Short Story: Failed AgainSam was part of the flying squadron. Each of the soldiers in this squadron had been given a futuristic flight suit that allowed them to literally fly 30 feet off the ground. Sam loved the thrill of flying through the air. But lately, he’d been having trouble. Instead of flying, all of his attempts had resulted in one failed attempt after another.

Sam hung his head low as he walked back into the building. He felt like such a failure. His attempt at jumping off the ground and flying had proved disastrous. In fact, he’d landed on the ground, done a somersault, and had a host of black and blue marks to prove it. How could he have failed his commander so badly again?

“Hey, man, what’s up? You look like you’ve been beat up.” The greeting came from Jason, Sam’s fellow soldier and good friend.

Sam explained what had happened, and the disastrous fall. He expected Jason to be shocked that Sam could fail so badly, but Jason wasn’t surprised in the least. His question startled Sam, “Did you have your flight suit on?”

Sam shook his head. “No, I didn’t bring the flight suit. I thought I’d flown enough times I could handle it.”

Jason choked in a laugh, but couldn’t quite resist a little smile. “Sam, you can’t ever fly without the flight suit. There’s nothing in you that will ever be able to fly.”

Sam stopped in his tracks and stared at his friend. “But I thought the commander expected us to grow and master flying on our own. That one day I’d be good enough to fly alone.”

Jason shook his head. “That’s just not how it works, brother. You can try all day, but you’ll never be able to fly apart from that suit. The sooner you realize that, the better.”

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 (KJV)

Use Your Sword

Use Your Sword

Short Story: Use Your Sword“What’s going on here?”

It was a good question to ask, considering the scene stretched out across the valley. Two armies were fighting an intense battle, that was clear. What wasn’t clear, though, was why many soldiers were using wooden sticks, pots and pans, and other odd makeshift weapons to fight. This use of weapons seemed especially odd considering each soldier had been issued a powerful sword.

Verdad decided to get to the bottom of the issue and ask one of the soldiers what was going on. “Why are you fighting with that stick?”

The soldier stopped and thought. “I’m used to fighting with sticks,” he replied. “It’s how I was brought up.”

“But weren’t you given a sword when you joined the army?”

The soldier nodded. “Yes, but I’m so used to this other sword, I suppose I reach for it out of habit.”

“But soldier, you want to win the war, right?”

The soldier nodded. “Of course.”

“Did it occur to you that right now, you’re fighting with the same makeshift, powerless weapons the enemy uses rather than with a powerful sword that’s capable of piercing through armor.”

“But the sword feels so heavy…”

Verdad nodded. “I know. It takes training. But don’t give up! Pick it up and build up your muscles. Learn how to wield it. You’ll never regret doing so.”

*****

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (KJV)

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” Ephesians 6:17 (KJV)

Story: No Way Out

“Come on, little birdy, fly out—no, not that way!” Jedediah felt his pleadings with the poor bird were in vain. He had been trying for the last half hour to rescue a poor bird that had flown into the garage and now couldn’t figure out how to get out.

It’s not that the door wasn’t open—it was. The sunshine streamednowayout into the garage. There was a way out—only the bird wouldn’t take it. It seemed determined that if it just flailed its little body against the side or roof of the garage enough times, it would break free. But all its efforts ended only in ruffled feathers and further discouragement. It felt trapped in the darkness, unable to get back out into the beautiful summer day.

“No, don’t give up!” Jedediah gently encouraged the bird, which had landed in a corner, overcome by defeat. Oh, why couldn’t the bird see that there was a wide open door waiting for it to fly through!

***

Do you ever feel stuck in the garage, so to speak? Maybe there’s an attitude or action in your life you know is wrong, but you feel stuck and unable to change. Maybe you, like the bird, have tried hard to conquer your sin, but to no avail.

There’s good news. While we can no more conquer sin than a bird can escape from a garage by flying into the walls or ceiling, Jesus has already conquered sin. The garage door is wide open—we’ve only to fly to Jesus and take the way of escape He promises to provide.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4

“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15–16

Story: I Forgot

Jared stared up and down the street with wide eyes. Where was he? What was he doing? More importantly, who was he?

He couldn’t remember the answer to any of those questions. He looked around him and saw a crowded street with people hustling around. I must need to hustle somewhere, he thought to himself. With that, he joined the crowd, hurrying somewhere, anywhere.

Jared felt his stomach growl. He was so hungry! He noticed some boys digging through trash cans looking for bread, so he joined them.

Several days passed this way. Until one day Jared bumped into Luke.

Jared recognized Luke, and with the recognition came a flood of other memories—memories that increased as Luke began speaking.

“Jared, whatever are you doing? You were sent out here to praise the King, serve Him, and share the King’s invitation with others, but you seem to be wandering around aimlessly. What’s going on?”

The truth came flooding back to Jared’s mind. The King—His banquet. He remembered now. The King had found him when he was a helpless beggar guilty of the death sentence for his crimes. The King had paid his fine and adopted him. Now Jared had been given a task to do during his short time left among the streets before the King returned to take him home forever. How could he have forgotten all of that? “I…I forgot,” Jared muttered.

“I can see that,” Luke’s reply was filled with gracious understanding. “I’ve forgotten before too. Amnesia seems to be one of our biggest enemies. Say, you look half starved—did you forget about the King’s food too?”

The King’s food! Oh, he had forgotten that too! The King had promised to send him daily food from the castle. But Jared had been eating from the trash cans instead.

Luke read his answer on Jared’s face. “I see you forgot. Well, let’s go get you some decent food right now. And next time, don’t forget to read the note the King gave you that reminds you of all these things…and let’s remind one another regularly, shall we?”

Jared nodded. He didn’t want to waste any more time in forgetfulness!

“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:” 2 Peter 3:1-2

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:11

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13

Thought: Avoiding Spiritual Forgetfulness

When I have something I need to remember, I do whatever it takes—sticky notes, lists, cell phone notices, timers, etc.—to remind myself of it. Without reminders, I could end up forgetting something important by getting caught up in a trivial pursuit!

We need reminders because we forget. And if we need reminders for earthly things, how much more do we need reminders of heavenly things?

We know God loves us. We know He’s in charge. We know this earth is temporary. We know He finished the work for our salvation. But it’s way too easy to forget these truths in how we live.

Take a look at your spiritual memory prompts. Do you have habits in place to remind you of God’s truths when you forget? Are you in His Word regularly? Have you surrounded yourself with other believers who will remind you of the truth when you stray?