The Price is Paid

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Imagine a shoplifter being caught in a department store. He is held there until the police arrive. The police officer then pays for the stolen goods, and gives them back to the shoplifter before setting him free!

That’s exactly what happened to a young man attempting to steal clothes in a Walmart store in Toronto recently. thestar.com reported that the eighteen year old had stolen a dress shirt, tie and socks. Police officer, Niran Jeyanesan, realised that there was more to this case, and began to question him about why he wanted the clothes. The young man reluctantly explained that his father was ill and couldn’t work. So he himself had decided to find a job to help his family. He’d even been offered an interview, but needed clothes to go in.

“He was very remorseful, very ashamed,” said Jeyanesan. “I could see that this is truly a mistake and this person wanted a chance at life.” So he paid for the shirt and tie himself before taking the young man to the police station, where they decided not to charge him. He was given the clothes, which he wore for the interview, and got the job!

“It was a case that allowed us to use our discretion. You could truly see that this person was trying to do something with his life,” Jeyanesan said, “This is a chance where we get to do something good. We all make mistakes and someone, at some point, gives us a second chance.”

1708.Toronto police officer Niran Jeyanesan - Yahoo - Toronto Police Service - Canadian Press

Police officer Niran Jeyanesan  (Toronto police service / The Canadian Press)

By his actions, police officer, Niran Jeyanesan, showed us what our Creator is like. In my previous post, “Heaven … a free gift?”, I explained how the love and acceptance of our Creator is a genuinely free gift. For our part, maybe we, like the shoplifter, have regrets, things on our conscience, times when we could have behaved differently, less selfishly, more calmly or honestly perhaps, and yet God comes to us offering forgiveness, acceptance and love no matter who we are and no matter what we’ve done.

All this is possible because Jesus, like the police officer, has paid the cost of the forgiveness that we don’t deserve. Out of His love for us, Jesus willingly went to the cross 2,000 years ago. We often think of a cross as an item of jewellery, but it was actually the place where Jesus took the weight of all of our wrongdoing, and paid the ultimate price by dying in our place. Through His death, Jesus took away the barrier between ourselves and our Creator. Consequently, we can come to Him in prayer and thank Him for His amazing gift, admitting we’ve gone our own way for too long, and making that decision to follow Him. The way to God is open to all who will receive the new life that Jesus offers. As the lyrics to this song by Graham Kendrick tell us:

 

“The price is paid,

Come let us enter in

To all that Jesus died

To make our own.

More than enough He gave

And bought our freedom

From each guilty stain.”

Heaven … a Free Gift?

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How much have you earned during your life so far? It may be that you’re still a student or unemployed and are glad of every penny that comes your way, or maybe you’ve been working for many years and are still waiting for the ‘big money’ to start rolling in. In contrast, it was revealed recently that the BBC TV and radio presenter Chris Evans earns over £2 million a year. But there are some things that even that amount of money can’t buy, such as a place in Heaven.

Yet in 2013 Israel Today reported that Ari Mendel, a young Jewish American, tried to do just that, by putting his place in Heaven up for sale on eBay! He thought that his many good deeds, done while studying at a Jewish seminary, had earned him credit with God, even though he had subsequently fallen away from the “right path.”

“Surely my place in Heaven is worth something,” he declared, as he encouraged bidders to offer a reasonable price. Bids reached $100,000 USD on eBay, until the company put a stop to the sale, saying that “the afterlife is not a tangible thing, and therefore cannot be sold.”

Ari Mendel had made two rather basic mistakes. Not only is it impossible to sell a place in Heaven, it’s also impossible to earn one. Although our Creator calls us to a selfless life, all of Ari’s good deeds, whatever they were, could never have ‘earned’ God’s favour. God’s love, His forgiveness and a place in Heaven are all a free gift given to anyone who recognises that they are completely undeserving. And that is good news to the spiritually hungry amongst us.

… God’s free gift is eternal life in Messiah Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

 

So when we talk to our Creator, we can know that we are coming to Someone who offers His love and understanding free of charge and without condemnation. He knows the struggles inside of us; He knows what we’ve been through, and He calls us to turn from our own ways, receive His forgiveness and to follow Him.

He loves you. Let Him lead you into a future that is beyond price.

Fogo Island

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Earlier this week I watched a television documentary about an exclusive, Canadian hotel situated on the very edge of Newfoundland on Canada’s Atlantic coast. The Fogo Island Inn is an unusual but attractive, white, ultra-modern building built on the rocky foreshore of Fogo Island. Twenty-nine suites are available for guests, who enjoy stunning, uninterrupted views of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The whole atmosphere of the hotel is light and airy, yet relaxing and homely. Spotlessly clean, white is the predominant colour, inside as well as out, setting-off the colourful individually designed furnishings, making it a home from home for guests. Facilities include an art gallery, library and sauna, but for me at least, the main attraction would be the peace and tranquility of an unspoilt haven, seemingly on the edge of the world. One night’s stay for two begins at approximately $1,500 CAD.

As a creative type, I was personally fascinated, as I’ve written above, by the stunning whiteness of the building, enhanced as it was by the beautifully made furniture, the colourful hand-made quilts and cushions, the natural wood floors and the unique wallpapers. Then I was suddenly brought back to reality as I watched the maintenance manager washing the windows with a brush on the end of an incredibly tall pole. Because the hotel is built literally on the rocks, just yards from the water’s edge, the salt in the air needs to be regularly washed from the windows. – No matter how beautiful the building, the windows still need to be cleaned.

On a human level, skin cleansing products are big business, removing the impurities, so that our skin can breathe again; and though we may not realise it, our need for spiritual cleansing is just as great. The more we experience of life in this world, the more of this world clings to us. The noise, the brashness, the selfishness of the world around us leaves its mark. No wonder some people choose to holiday by relaxing on palm-fringed beaches or trek through mountains far from civilisation.

mountain landscape

Such holidays are short-lived. We need a more accessible source of spiritual refreshment, and that is where prayer comes in. When we come to our Creator in prayer, we arrive at the source of spiritual purity. Out of His love for us, our Creator calls us to Himself. He offers us forgiveness and cleansing as a free gift – forgiveness, because who hasn’t done something they regret, and which of us has lived a perfect life and has nothing on their conscience? – a free gift, because Jesus Himself paid the price for our cleansing, so our spiritual focus can be restored and we can enjoy purity and peace as, with His help, we make a new start and dedicate our life to following Him.

“So then, let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean, and let us be completely holy by living in awe of God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 (GNT)

A Tale of Two Citizens

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Do people judge you by your appearance or do you ever do the same to others? I have to admit I find myself doing so when I have nothing else to go on, but there is a better way. Talk to the person, get to know them; it’s likely you’ll find depths of character that no amount of looking could ever discover. Maybe you’ll make a new friend?

Appearances can be deceptive. Let me tell you about two people, real people who we may judge differently at first glance. My first story is about a vicar.

In the 1980’s a prison chaplain was encouraged when he found out that one of the prisoners in his jail had become a follower of Jesus. This young man’s life was transformed. He became a new person, eventually finishing his sentence and starting a new life in another part of the country. A few weeks later, the prison chaplain received a phone call about the young man. It was from a vicar, who explained that the ex-prisoner had started to attend his church, “but,” the vicar said, “he’s a bit odd!”

“What do you mean odd?” asked the chaplain.

“He talks as though he knows God personally!” was the reply.

“Well that’s probably because he does,” said the chaplain. Immediately the vicar’s phone went down! His unbelief had found him out. Here was a man representing God to his community and vice versa, yet who didn’t have that relationship of love and trust with the God he was trying to serve.

My second story is about a lady, whom I met recently in the high street. As I talked to this middle-aged lady, dressed as she was in an old, baggy track suit, she confided that she was an ex-prostitute; which probably explained the stares I got as I walked along beside her. Her life had become one of hardship and fear, yet there was something that gave her hope. She told me that she’d been reading the Bible, and had discovered that Jesus showed compassion and forgiveness to a prostitute he met while a dinner guest at someone’s home. This lady wanted to know that same Jesus for herself.

You don’t have to be religious to know your Creator; you don’t have to have lived a perfect life; you don’t have to have it all together. There is hope for every one of us. Our Creator doesn’t guarantee an easy life, but He offers love, peace, forgiveness and new life to everyone who will turn and follow Him.

As Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (CEB)