Heaven … a Free Gift?

shutterstock_165871943.Smllr

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.

Love One Another

170526.St Ann'sSq. Daily Mail - 40D2DE2500000578.Smllr

St. Ann’s Square, Manchester  (Photo credit: Warren Smith)

I stood in St. Ann’s Square, Manchester, just a few days after the tragic events of May 22nd, gazing across the sea of flowers, vibrant in the morning sunshine. The crowd quietly looked on as balloons bobbed and candles flickered. Moving messages of sorrow and solidarity had been chalked on the paving stones, and satellite vans were dotted along the street, waiting to send the latest ‘moving’ pictures around the world.

What can one say after the tragic bombing at the Manchester Arena already over a week ago? Ariana Grande was right when she tweeted, “I don’t have words.” Nothing can bring back the loss suffered by those who have been injured and bereaved. Our hearts go out to each one; for them life will never be the same again.

1705.i-love-mcr-1024x768.CroppedWhen I was six my father would occasionally take me to work with him on a Saturday morning. Before going home we would stop at the sweetshop next door to his offices. That sweetshop was about 35 yards from where the sea of flowers lies today. Neither I, nor my father, could have comprehended the tragic event that would carpet the square with flowers so many years later.

Despite her initial tweet, later that week Ariana Grande found the words to express her sorrow and her thoughts for the future:

“My heart, prayers and deepest condolences are with the victims of the Manchester Attack and their loved ones.

There is nothing I or anyone can do to take away the pain you are feeling or to make this better. However, I extend my hand and heart and everything I can possibly give to you and yours, should you want or need my help in any way.

The only thing we can do now is choose how we let this affect us and how we live our lives from here on out. …

Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before. …

We will continue in honor of the ones we lost, their loved ones, my fans and all affected by this tragedy.

They will be on my mind and in my heart everyday and I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life.” @ArianaGrande May 26

As Ariana tweeted, “the only thing we can do now is choose how we let this affect us and how we live our lives from here on out.” In response to the bombing, the people of Manchester have taken the Oasis song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as their theme song. Yes, we should be deeply moved by such a tragic event, but the people are right, anger will accomplish nothing. As wise King Solomon once wrote:

“A gentle answer turns anger away. …”

Proverbs 15:1 (NIRV)

 

It’s at times like this we can look to our Creator for inspiration; when we take on the gentle but strong spirit of Jesus, who said to His followers:

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”

John 13:34-35 (NCV)

I wonder how different Monday 22nd would have been if one more person in this world had understood the truth of those words?

A Bruised Reed

shutterstock_415454299-smllr

“Unwanted, abandoned because I don’t measure up!” That is how many people feel in our world of upside-down values. Yet, no matter how insecure we feel, each one of us is unique and of infinite worth to our Creator, who didn’t make a mistake when he brought us into being. We may not have Hollywood money or good looks or the brains of Einstein or even the popularity of some of our former classmates at school, but to the one who truly knows us through and through, we are loved with a passion. As the ancient, Hebrew prophet once said about God:

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.”

Isaiah 42:3 (NIVUK)

The BBC’s Panorama programme recently conducted a fascinating investigation into the true identity of a gentle, elderly, American man found abandoned in November 2015 on the streets of Hereford, a small but historic English city. His dementia meant he was unable to explain his situation, and only once did he reveal his name, Roger Curry. He was taken temporarily to a local care home, where he was loved and adopted as one of their own. Unfortunately efforts by the local police to find his family proved fruitless.

roger-curry-3caa6bfd00000578-0-image-m-46_1485852471067

Roger Curry at the care home in Hereford. (Credit: BBC Panorama)

So using social media and a lot of detective work, Panorama finally found his real home, a fenced off, fire-damaged, single-storey house in Los Angeles, the city where he had once worked as a nurse. Roger’s wife and son are accused by the Los Angeles authorities of taking him to England and abandoning him. Roger has now been flown back to Los Angeles where he is being looked after by the local authority. Sadly, according to the Panorama report, the care he’s been receiving recently in L.A., doesn’t match the level of care or devotion that he experienced at the care home in Hereford. The US courts are now deciding on Roger’s future.

To be rejected by your family, for whatever reason, is very sad, but thankfully God will never reject us. His eye is always upon us; his ear is always listening for our cry. So call on the one who loves you, tell Him your troubles, confide in him; never feel afraid that you don’t match up to His expectations, receive his love for you today. Our anxious hearts can be reassured by His promise:

“I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.”

Hebrews 13:5 (GNT)