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c. Second Chances: The Power of Grace

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Key Verse: Luke 19:11 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

Have you ever hurt your loved ones through your actions and decisions? Have you ever wished you could take back the angry words you have uttered and the bad decisions you have made? Have you ever wished people would give you a second chance?

We as humans may tend not to be too forgiving and are inclined to hold on grudges for generations to come. I know of families split in two by unforgiveness, unwilling to talk to one another. I know of countries dominated by hate towards a certain ethnic group and promote ethnic cleansing. I have seen people willing to blow themselves up to retaliate against those who oppose their ideologies. Hatred and unforgiveness seem to reign all around us and one may wonder if God is really as forgiving as we hope he would be. Is He really a God of second chances?

Jesus answered this question through a parable, illustrating the real nature of our Heavenly Father.

Luke 15:11-13 "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country…"

Can you imagine having your own son demanding His share from your estate! You are not dead yet and He claims his part of the inheritance! How ungrateful! How dare he ask such a thing! Who does he think he is? Most of us would grab him by the collar and show him the realities of life.

Not so with the dad in this story. This dad, illustrating our Heavenly Father, let his son have what he desires. This dad does not force his will upon his son. He tries to understand his child and provides for his ambitions.

As soon as his son receives his share, he sets off to a distant country. No goodbyes. No "I love you". No "thank you". Would you like to have a son like that?

Luke 15:13 "…and there squandered his wealth in wild living."

The son takes no second thoughts in spending his inheritance the way he sees fit. "Let's party!" Becomes his motto. And all of his father's hard earned money is spend frivolously.

"It's not even his own money!" You may object.

That does not stop him. "I am free to do whatever I want to. Nobody can stop me! Not even my dad!" He retorts.

"How selfish!" You may reply. "Who would like to have a son like that?"

Luke 15:14-16 "After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

Eventually the good times come to an abrupt halt, like they always do. The son had spend wildly all of his inheritance and finds himself now penniless. All his "close" friends disappear, now that he could not provide for "fun" times any longer. To survive he ends up being hired to feed pigs. Not a high position in any country of that time period. It is clear that the son did not have any worthwhile work ethics. He is considered a bum and is treated accordingly.

"Deserves him right!" You may conclude. And you are probably right.

Luke 15:17-20 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father."

He finally comes to his senses. He realizes that he is a bum. No one really wants him. He is living a nightmare without an end in sight. Why starve to death when at his father's estate hired men are treated like royalty and are well compensated. He realizes he hasn't act like a son to his father. In fact he concludes he does not even deserve to be called "son" of his father any longer. He has been acting so selfishly, squandering his father's money to satisfy his own appetites. No inheritance would be available to him any longer! He had spent it all! But maybe, just maybe his dad would hire him in his estate and maybe he could earn a living instead of feeding pigs and starve to death.

Hope fills his soul and off he goes, back to where he came from. Without a résumé in his hand, without a reputable reputation, he prepares his plea. His only advantage is that he knows the one who may offer him a job.

"I wouldn't hire a worthless slut like him, even if he was my son." You may rationalize.

However, how did his dad (portraying God the Father) react?

Luke 15:20 "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

His dad was scanning the horizon daily, hoping for his son to return, and desiring that his wayward son would come back to his senses. When his patience finally pays off and he notices far off the return of his own son, he runs to him, welcoming him back with open arms and kissing him. Oh how he longed for that moment!

"But how is this possible? How can one love such an ungrateful and selfish individual, even if that individual is one's son?" You may wonder.

Luke 15:21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'"

"Hey, at least the son is aware of his condition! He is so right. He is not worthy to be called a son!"

Luke 15:22-24 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."

His dad however does not acknowledge his son's ramblings. He dresses his son with the best in-house clothing, even gives him his most precious ring and prepares a celebration that will be remembered for ions. He rejoices because his lost son is back. He has found his way back home! It is time to celebrate! His dad is in seventh heaven. His dream has become true! His son is finally back home!

"Wait a minute! This son does not deserve all this!"

You are so right! However that doesn't stop his father to celebrate and shower his son with love and affection.

"But what happened with the other son, the one who did not demand his part of the estate? What happened to him?"

Luke 15:25-30 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'"

The other son had been working all along at his father's property. When he heard that his brother was back and that everyone celebrated his return, he was quite upset. Wouldn't you be?

"This worthless brother of mine! He selfishly demands his inheritance before dad is dead, spends it all on prostitutes and dares to come back when he runs out of money! Who does he think he is?"

Wouldn't you agree with him?

"Why would dad "kill the fattened calf for him"? What kind of a dad do I have?"

Notice though that this son refers to his Father as a slave-driver! "All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders." This son, although working for his dad, does not really know his father! He doesn't really have a relationship with him! There are two wayward sons in this story. One who indulged in a life of sin and the other who indulged working for his dad for all the wrong reasons! No wonder he was filled with rage! Anyone working his own way to salvation, through the merits of his own works, does not know God!

Eph 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast."

A "religious" person can be as wayward as a sinner if he does not have a personal relationship with God!

Luke 15:31-32 "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

His dad is filled with compassion for his lost son. So what if his son was selfish! So what if he spent half of his estate! What is important here is that his son is back. His son "was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is (now) found".

Does God forgive? Absolutely and without any second thoughts! What is so difficult for man to do is easy for God, as it is in His nature. He is filled with love and compassion and hungers for His children to return home. You are one His sons or daughters and he is waiting patiently for you to return as well. We all have wandered away in pursue of our own pleasures, squandering God's treasures.

Rom 3:23 "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…"

There was no turning back. However God made it possible for us to return home. Jesus died the death we deserve, opening the path for our return home. Our Father is waiting impatiently for us. He longs to celebrate our return. He desires for us to become alive and enjoy life the way it really can be enjoyed!

Gal 4:4-7 "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."

John 10:10 "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

He is not waiting to hire you for specific jobs, but to welcome you home as His own daughter or son. Will you let Him?

"This is a powerful story, but still it is only a story. Is God really willing to give me a second chance? Can you proof to me with concrete examples from the Bible that He is a forgiving God?"

The Bible is filled with people who were given a second chance by God. Let us look at a few examples.

A. David committed the most heinous crime possible. He lusted after a married woman. Being the king he could do as he pleased. He committed adultery and got Bathseba pregnant. In order to cover for his crime, he ordered her husband to the front lines and while battling, David's army retreated inconspicuously from him and being outnumbered was killed.

2 Sam 11:2-5, 14-15 "One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."… In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, "Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."

David's crime deserved death. He had taken advantage of his own position to fulfill his own lust. His treachery ended up in killing an innocent righteous man.

Would God give him a second chance? Was God able to forgive David?

More than a thousand years later, Luke wrote the following about David under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit:

Acts 13:22 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

Was David forgiven? Absolutely. His sin was not remembered by God. Our Heavenly Father calls him "a man after my own heart". This is grace, true grace.

B. The apostle Peter was so self-assured that he would always stick with Jesus. However the night of Jesus' arrest, he denied Jesus three times, making a complete fool of himself.

Matt 26:33 "Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."

Matt 26:69-75 "Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.

But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."

He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."

Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"

Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly."

"Didn't Jesus say that whoever denies Him would be denied in Heaven?"

Absolutely: Matt 10:32-33 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."

Did God forgive Peter?

Gal 2:8 "For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles."

This text, written more than ten years after Peter's denial proves that Peter had been forgiven and was working to God's glory!

C. Saul hated Christians. He enjoyed persecuting them and having them killed. His lust for their blood was unimaginable.

He confessed: Acts 22:4-5 "I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished."

Did God forgive Saul?

Acts 22:6-16 "About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?' "'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. "'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. "'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. "'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.' My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. "A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him. "Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'"

Absolutely and he became instrumental in spreading the Good News around the world.

"What Good News?"

Acts 10:36-43 "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

The Good News is that you can be forgiven by God! No sins are too vile or atrocious. You can be forgiven if you repent and believe in what Jesus has done for you.

2 Cor 5:18-19 "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."

Jesus came on this planet to make this reconciliation possible. He died for you. He died for your sins. He paid the ultimate price to obtain your freedom. He was resurrected on the third day, and made this resurrection power available to us.

Rom 4:25 "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

"Jesus may have died for others, but not for me. You don't know how hideous I am. No way God can forgive someone like me."

Question 1: Read the following text and answer the following question: For whom did Jesus die?

John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Answer:

Jesus didn't die just for the Christians or the Jews. He didn't die only for a certain group of people. He died "to save the world". Are you an inhabitant of the world? If you live on this planet, you sure are and He came to save you as well!

Question 2: How much does God love you?

Answer:


He loves you so much that Jesus died just for you! He longs for you to believe in Him and accept what Jesus did for you, so that you could "have eternal life" and experience Him in your life. His outstretched arms on the cross shows you how much he loves you, so much that He was willing to die for you. Do you know of anyone else who would be willing to die for you?

Question 3: Does God really offer second chances? Is He willing to forgive you?

Answer:


Just like the wayward son was forgiven… just like David was forgiven…just like Peter and Saul were forgiven, God is willing to forgive you.

Question 4: Read the following text and answer this question: How can you be forgiven?

1 John 1:9-10 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

Answer:


The only way to be forgiven is to confess your sins and accept God's offer of forgiveness. It is guaranteed that you will be forgiven. It has cost Jesus' life for you to be forgiven!

Question 5: Can one repent repeatedly and continue a life of sin?

Acts 3:19 "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out."

Acts 26:20 "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."

Rom 6:1-3 "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"

Answer:


Our actions, although they cannot save us, testify that we have accepted our Heavenly Father's forgiveness. The wayward son stayed home after his homecoming. He stopped his selfish life of frivolously spending his Father's estate. This does not mean we are sin free, but we do not deliberately pursue a life of sin any longer. However we will fall into temptation from time to time. Having a personal relationship with God will give you access to His grace and His forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9-10).

Question 6: Are you ready to come back home to your Heavenly Father? He is waiting for you! He loves you!

Answer:


When you have decided to come back home, you will be welcomed with open arms. A great celebration will occur in heaven and God will gladly declare: "For this son (daughter) of mine was dead and is alive again; he (she) was lost and is found." Say the following prayer from your heart:

"Dear Heavenly Father,

I am coming home! I am tired of living a life filled with lies and sin. I am tired for hurting others and hurting myself through my words and actions. I thank you for forgiving me and for welcoming me home with open arms. I welcome you into my life and accept Jesus to fill my life with His love and compassion. I am turning away from my sins and want from now on to develop a close relationship with you. Be my guide in everything from now on. Thank you that I can call you daddy. I love you!

In Jesus' mighty name. Amen"

Welcome home my friend!

Enjoy the following two stories demonstrating that God is indeed a God of second chances and that He is eager to forgive you.

* The Exterminator

When Rumania entered the war on Germany's side, a pogrom began in which many thousands of Jews were killed or deported. At Iasi alone 11,000 were massacred in a day. My wife, who shares my Protestant faith, is also of Jewish origin. We lived in Bucharest, from which the Jews were not deported, but her parents, one of her brothers, three sisters and other relatives who lived in Bucovine were taken to Transmistria, a wild border province which the Rumanians had captured from Russia. Jews who were not murdered at the end of this journey were left to starve, and there Sabina's family died.

I had to break this news. She recovered herself and said, "I will not weep. You are entitled to a happy wife, and Mihai to a happy mother, and our Church to a servant with courage:" If she shed tears in private I do not know, but from that day I never saw Sabina weep again.

Some time later our landlord, a good Christian, told me sadly of a man who was staying in the house while on leave from the front. "I knew him before the war," he said, "but he's changed completely. He has become a brute who likes to boast of how he volunteered to exterminate Jews in Transmistria and killed hundreds with his own hands."

I was deeply distressed and I decided to pass the night in prayer. To avoid disturbing Sabina, who was unwell and who would have wished to join in my vigil in spite of that, I went upstairs after supper to the landlord's flat to pray with him. Lounging in an armchair was a giant of a man whom the landlord introduced as Borila, the killer of Jews from Transmistria. When he rose he was even taller than I, and there seemed to be about him an aura of horror that was like a smell of blood. Soon he was telling us of his adventures in the war and of the Jews he had slaughtered.

"It is a frightening story," I said, "but I do not fear for the Jews-God will compensate them for what they have suffered. I ask myself with anguish what will happen to the murderers when they stand before God's judgment."

An ugly scene was prevented by the landlord who said that we were both guests in his house, and turned the talk into more neutral channels. The murderer proved to be not only a murderer. Nobody is only one thing. He was a pleasant talker, and eventually it came out that he had a great love of music.

He mentioned that while serving in the Ukraine he had been captivated by the songs there. "I wish I could hear them again," he said.

I knew some of these old songs. I thought to myself, looking at Borila, "The fish has entered my net!" "If you'd like to hear some of them," I told him, "come to my flat-I'm no pianist, but I can play a few Ukrainian melodies."

The landlord, his wife and daughter accompanied us. My wife was in bed. She was used to my playing softly at night and did not wake up. I played the folk-songs, which are alive with feeling, and I could see that Borila was deeply moved. I remembered how, when King Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit, the boy David had played the harp before him.

I stopped and turned to Borila. "I've something very important to say to you," I told him.

"Please speak," he said.

"If you look through that curtain you can see someone is asleep in the next room. It's my wife, Sabina. Her parents, her sisters and her twelve-year old brother have been killed with the rest of the family. You told me that you had killed hundreds of Jews near Golta, and that is where they were taken." Looking into his eyes, I added, "You yourself don't know who you have shot, so we can assume that you are the murderer of her family."

He jumped up, his eyes blazing, looking as if he were about to strangle me.

I held up my hand and said, "Now-let's try an experiment. I shall wake my wife and tell her who you are, and what you have done. I can tell you what will happen. My wife will not speak one word of reproach! She'll embrace you as if you were her brother. She'll bring you supper, the best things she has in the house.

"Now, if Sabina, who is a sinner like us all, can forgive and love like this, imagine how Jesus, who is perfect Love, can forgive and love you! Only return to Him-and everything you have done will be forgiven!"

Borila was not heartless: within, he was consumed by guilt and misery at what he had done, and he had shaken his brutal talk at us as a crab its claws. One tap at his weak spot, and his defenses crumbled. The music had already moved his heart, and now came-instead of the attack he expected -words of forgiveness. His reaction was amazing. He jumped up and tore at his collar with both hands, so that his shirt was rent apart. "Oh God, what shall I do, what shall I do?" He cried. He put his head in his hands and sobbed noisily as he rocked himself back and forth. "I'm a murderer, I'm soaked in blood, what shall I do?" Tears ran down his cheeks.

I cried, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command the devil of hatred to go out of your soul!"

Borila fell on his knees trembling, and we began to pray aloud. He knew no prayers; he simply asked again and again for forgiveness and said that he hoped and knew it would be granted. We were on our knees together for some time; then we stood up and embraced each other, and I said, "I promised to make an experiment. I shall keep my word."

I went into the other room and found my wife still sleeping calmly. She was very weak and exhausted at that time. I woke her gently and said. "There is a man here whom you must meet. We believe he has murdered your family, but he has repented, and now he is our brother."

She came out in her dressing-gown and put out her arms to embrace him: then both began to weep and to kiss each other again and again. I have never seen bride and bridegroom kiss with such love and passion and purity as this murderer and the survivor among his victims. Then, as I foretold, Sabina went to the kitchen to bring him food.

While she was away the thought came to me that Borila's crime had been so terrible that some further lesson was needed. I went to the next room and returned with my son, Mihai, who was then two, asleep in my arms. It was only a few hours since Borila had boasted to us how he had killed Jewish children in their parents' arms, and now he was horrified; the sight was an unbearable reproach. He expected me to accuse him. But I said, "Do you see how quietly he sleeps? You are also like a newborn child who can rest in the Father's arms. The blood that Jesus shed has cleansed d you."

Borila's happiness was very moving: he stayed with us that night, and when he awoke the next day, he said, "It's a Iong time since I slept like that."

St. Augustine says, "Anima humana naturaliter Christiana est" - the human soul is naturally Christian. Crime is against one's own nature, the result of social pressure or many other causes, and what a relief a is to cast it off as he had done!

Wurmbrand, Richard. In God's Underground. Living Sacrifice Book Company: Bartlesville, 1993, p.229-233. Available from The Voice of the Martyrs at www.persecution.com.

* Unforeseen Fruit

"Back in 1921, a missionary couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son from Sweden to the heart of Africa-to what was then called the Belgian Congo. They met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to set out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.

This was a huge step of faith. At the village of N'dolera they were rebuffed by the chief, who would not let them enter his town for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.

They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. The only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood-a tiny woman only four feet, eight inches tall decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, she succeeded.

But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N'dolera to go on alone. Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth, the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina.

The delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. She lasted only another seventeen days.

Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. He dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife, and then took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he snarled, "I'm going back to Sweden. I've lost my wife, and I obviously can't take care of this baby. God has ruined my life." With that, he headed for the port, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself."…

(Eventually the baby landed with some missionaries from the States. They changed her first name to "Aggie". Aggie grew up in South Dakota and married a young man named Dewey Hurst. They had two children together and moved to the Seattle area, where there was a large population of Scandinavians.)

"One day a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who had sent it, and of course she couldn't read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting was a grave with a white cross-and on the cross were the words SVEA FLOOD.

Aggie jumped in her car and went straight for a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. "What does this say?" She demanded.

The instructor summarized the story: It was about missionaries who had come to N'dolera long ago ... the birth of a white baby ... the death of the young mother ... the one little African boy who had been led to Christ ... and how, after the whites had all left, the boy had grown up and finally persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village.

The article said that gradually he won all his students to Christ ... the children led their parents to Christ ... even the chief had become a Christian. Today there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village....

All because of the sacrifice of David and Svea Flood. For the Hursts' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie sought to find her real father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family:

"Never mention the name of God-because God took everything from me."

After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. "You can talk to him," they replied, "even though he's very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage." Aggie was not to be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed. "Papa?" She said tentatively. He turned and began to cry. "Aina," he said. "I never meant to give you away." "It's all right, Papa," she replied, taking him gently in her arms. "God took care of me."

The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped.

"God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of him." He turned his face back to the wall.

Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted. "Papa, I've got a little story to tell you, and it's a true one. You didn't go to Africa in vain. Mama didn't die in vain. The little boy you won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you were faithful to the call of God in your life....

"Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you."

The old man turned back to look into his daughter's eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.

Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together. Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America-and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity."

Cymbala, Jim. Fresh Power. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001, p. 115-119.

* Repent "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." - Luke 13:3

Genelle Guzman McMillan was the last person to be rescued from the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. She had been trapped in the rubble for 27 hours when at last fire fighters heard her calling and pulled her out.

This 30-year-old single mother had only been on the job as a Port Authority clerk for nine months when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. By her own description she was a catholic who had become a "party-girl" and was living with her boyfriend in Brooklyn.

But when the North Tower collapsed, Genelle's thoughts immediately turned to the Lord and her 14-year old daughter. She prayed that her body would at least be found so that it could be buried. Becoming bolder, she revised her prayer and asked the Lord that if she had to die, that she could at least make it to the hospital so she could see her daughter one last time. But as faith seemed to bubble in her heart, she boldly asked her Heavenly Father to be rescued alive. "I was praying to God: 'God please save my life. Give me a second chance. I promise I will change my life and do your will.'" McMillan remembers saying that prayer over and over. "God please save my life. Give me a second chance. I promise I will change my life and do your will." She had no idea now how many times she repeated it or how many hours passed before she was rescued.

Genelle has kept her promise too and has turned away from sins and has deepened her walk with the Lord.

Are you out of fellowship with the Lord? Today in prayer, turn away from any sin and draw closer to Jesus Christ.

"Without an ability to repent man would be unable to enter in to the Kingdom of God. Repentance always leads to a better state and always precedes a greater measure of the Presence of God." - Mike Hullah

God's Word: "From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" - Matthew 4:17

By Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2003, Devotional E-Mail DEVOTIONS IN LUKE pkennedy@devotional.com

Assignment: Meditate on the following words: 1 John 5:10-12 "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." Who has life? What does it mean to have life? How have you experienced this God of second chances? Write down if possible your testimony. Feel free to share it with others and with us.

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