Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

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Madira’s Healing

This story is similar to the woman with the issue of blood.  She had suffered for twelve years and the doctors couldn’t help her although she had spent her money on them. Finally, she had sought out the only One who could.  In faith, she touched the hem of His garment and was healed.  Madira was suffering from an unknown sickness.  The doctors could not ease her pain so she turned to witch doctors whose prescribed methods failed to work.  After six years elapsed, they gave up and for years, Madira continued to suffer.

Then, one day in the midst of her pain, Madira remembered the gift her brother had given her sixteen years ago.  It was a Bible.  It was the last resort.  She and her family had tried everything possible to end her suffering, but so far, nothing had worked.

She pulled her son aside and asked him to bring the Bible and read it to her.  As he read to her from it, something miraculous happened.  The pain left Madira’s body and she was able to sleep through the night.  It was possible now for her to move without the struggle and discomfort.  The words filled her with a peace she had never experienced before and brought healing to her tired body.  This stirred within her a desire to know who Jesus was.

One day they met Seth, a Gospel for Asia supporter serving their area with whom they explained their problems to.  He told them about Jesus’ love and how He was the great Healer and Restorer.  He promised them that if they believe in the name of Jesus Christ, Madira would be healed.  However, after years of discouragement and treatments that didn’t work, they were not hopeful.  Seth encouraged them not to worry because God does the impossible for all who believe in His name.

The family decided that since there was no hope anywhere else they would go to church and learn about God’s love.  There they met pastors and believers who prayed regularly for Madira.  Within a few weeks, God healed her completely.  He had answered their prayers.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers – 1 Peter 3:12a

Through the fervent prayers of His people, God healed Madira.  This all came about when Madira remembered the Bible which contained the living, breathing Word of God. She discovered its great value and in its pages, the God who wanted to reveal His love to her.  It was able to do what the doctors and the witch doctors were unable to do–bring relief and peace from her pain.

God’s Word is powerful and it still impacts the lives of those who are in possession of it. Help Gospel for Asia to put the Word of God in the hands of more families in Asia so that like Madira and her family, their lives can be impacted too.

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Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Bible Gateway

Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

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Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

Giving

It was one of the highlights in her life.

To organize a donation drive and then

make arrangements for the delivery

of the clothes and other items she

received from the church members

and to see the faces of the staff

when she dropped them off.

 

It was an opportunity to teach

her daughter Kayla about

caring for those who

were less fortunate.  Kayla’s

face lit up every time they

got out the boxes and went

through the toys and clothes

that they were going to give

to the women and children

in the homeless shelter.  Kayla

was more than willing to give

away her toys and books.  “It

will make them and Jesus happy,”

she explained.

 

Once Kayla went with her to the

shelter and on their way home

she asked, “Mommy, why do

people live in shelters?”

 

“Sometimes things are so bad

at home that they have to leave

and find somewhere else–a place

where they feel safe.  The shelter

protects them from harm.”

 

“I’m happy that things are good

at home, Mommy.  I am happy that

I have somewhere to live.  I wouldn’t

want to live in a shelter.”

 

She smiled.  “Yes, Kayla.  We have

so much to thank God for because

He has blessed us so now we are

blessing others.  Those who

are living in the shelters are

thankful too.  They have shelter,

food, clothes and other things

they need.  And when we help

them, it is as if we are helping

Jesus.  It is always good to help

people.  When we help them

by donating what we have,

there is a feeling that we are

doing the right thing and we

are making God proud.  God

is always proud of you when

you help people.”

 

“When I grow up, I want to

help as many children and

their mommies as I can.”

 

She smiled.  Lord, bless

her little heart for wanting

to be a blessing to others.

And thank You for showing

her that it is more blessed

to give than to receive.

 

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The Widow

Woman, widow, mother,

poor, invisible, substandard.

Unloved, neglected, shamed.

Blamed for her husband’s

death.  Alienated by his

family.  Believed to be cursed.

 

Life for a widow

in her society is tough,

unsympathetic and

unbearable.  Suicide

seemed to be the only

relief and release from

the pain but God had

other plans.  He sent

three female missionaries

to her village.

 

They spoke to her about

a Savior who loved her.

She listened.  This God

was unlike any of her

Her gods didn’t seem to

care about her.  She had

prayed to them, sacrificed

to them but there was no

answer.  Her cries seem to

fall on deaf ears and they

didn’t try to stop her when

she thought of ending her

life but this God did.  He

sent help.  He sent these

three women to tell her

about Him.  He was the

God who is the defender

of widows.  He said, “And

let your widows trust in Me.”

 

Yes, she trusted this kind and

loving God who didn’t see

her as substandard but

precious in His sight.  He

loved her with an ever-

lasting love and promised

never to leave her or forsake

her.  Her heart filled with

love for this God and His

Son who gave His life for

her.

 

She heard the story of

Jesus had pity on the

mother whose son died.

She was a widow and had

no one to care for her now.

Jesus raised her son back

to life and the tears of sorrow

turned to tears of joy.  She

knew that this same Jesus

would have compassion on

her and care for her.

 

Now, thanks to donations

pouring into the ministry

which had sent the missionaries

to her village, she is now able to

take care of her children with

a sewing machine.  She didn’t have

to depend on relatives who didn’t

want to help her.  She depended on

the God who had saved and

transformed her life.

 

Indian widow

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

 

The Afternoon Tradition

As she drank her tea, she thought of her grandmother.

Grams would have turned 90 today.  How she missed her.

It was Grams who got her into the habit of drinking tea

in the afternoons.  She thought of the times when she

used to walk over to Grams’ house after school and sit

at the table and watched as she poured the hot tea into

two large cups.

 

Earl Grey was Gram’s favorite.  She had her reasons why.

And she loved to list them.  “It has many benefits, Steffi,” she

would say.  “It calms your nerves, improves your immune

system, helps your digestion, keeps you alert, which is good

for people my age,” she paused to chuckle at that remark

before she continued, “It boosts your metabolism, improves

your heart health, prevents cancer, keeps you hydrated and

protects your teeth.  And it tastes good.”

 

Stephanie had to agree.  Earl Grey had a fruity flavor and

didn’t taste as bitter or strong as the other types of black

tea.   So, it was over a cup of Earl Grey tea that she was

remembering her grandmother who passed away from

natural causes two years ago.

 

It was during those afternoon visits that Grams would

talk to her about the Bible.  The book of Proverbs was

her favorite.  “It has lots of good advice for all of us,

especially for young people.” And she would read

to her.

 

As Grams sipped her tea, Stephanie would talk to

her about school, growing up and boys.  She told her

about the annoying boy in school who was always pulling her

hair and doing things to upset her.  When Grams told her

that he did these silly things because he liked her,

she was shocked but Grams was right.  She was

always right.  She had so much wisdom.

“I get it from reading God’s Word,” she

said and “I ask Him for it too.”

 

Grams was the first one in her family

to meet the man she ended up marrying.

He was that same annoying boy from school.

Grams was  the first to hold their newborn

baby.  Sometimes she suspected that her

mother was a little jealous of the closeness

she had with her grandmother but Grams

never judged her or made her feel bad when

she made bad decisions but was always there

to encourage her.   It was Grams who had

faith in her when no one else did, including

herself.  And it was Grams who led her to

Jesus.

 

Their afternoon tea tradition lasted

through high school, college and even

after she got married.

 

She smiled as she sipped her tea.  Yes, she

missed her grandmother but she knew

she would see her again on the blessed

day when Jesus comes again.  Until then,

she would continue to enjoy a cup of

Earl Grey tea in the afternoons and

remember her beloved Grams.

 

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Source:  Your Tea Headquarters

The Good Soil

As she planted the bean seeds in the rich soil, she

thought of the parable Jesus told about the sower.

The sower was sowing seed which was the Word

of God.  The seed fell among different types of places/soil.

Which type of soil was she?  Was she the rocky soil

which represented those who hear the message, receive

it with joy but since they don’t have deep roots, they believe

for a while and then fall away when they face temptation?

 

Or was she the thorns which represented those who hear

the message, but the message is quickly crowded out by

the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they

never grow into maturity?

 

Or was she the good soil which represented honest,

good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to

it, and patiently produce a huge harvest?

 

She did not believe that she was the wayside which

represented those who hear the message, only to have the

devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent

them from believing and being saved.

 

Which soil was she?  There were times when she was

so busy that she didn’t have time to read her Bible

and most of the time she fell asleep while praying.

When things got tough or she was faced with

temptation, she vacillated between going to God

in prayer and trying to handle the problem on

her own.

 

Which soil was she?  She had her moments when

she talked about the Bible with those who cared

to listen.  Was she making a difference, though?

Were the seeds that she planted germinating

in that person’s life?  What about her own

spiritual growth?

 

She knew which soil she wanted to be but, first

she had to let the Word of God take root and

grow in her.  Only then could she bear good fruit.

 

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Source:  Blue Letter Bible