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« Reply #2925 on: March 28, 2009, 09:28:51 AM »

 "Balancing The Scales"

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

The recession is real. For some, it is realer than others.

For example, according to Forbes Magazine, 355 people who once were billionaires are now ex-billionaires. Eighteen of the billionaires are ex-billionaires because they died; others are losers because of situation and circumstance. High on that list is Anil Ambani of India who found his fortune diminished from $31.9 billion to a meager $10.1 billion.

Of course, in tough times not everyone loses.

As proof, I give you Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. This year, Shorty made it onto the billionaire list. Now, it's possible you don't travel in Shorty's circles, so a word or two about him might be in order. Shorty, who is just five-feet tall, is responsible for thousands of deaths in Mexico's drug war. He is at the top of that country's most-wanted list, and his illegal drug sales have made him a billionaire.

This goes to show things in this life are not always fair, and they aren't always right.

But I'm not telling you anything you don't know, am I? We have all seen, we have all experienced the inequities of life. It seems like the good ought to prosper and the bad ought to be punished, but it doesn't always work out that way -- not in this life.

But this life is short, and what we see is not the final chapter of the story. The Savior, Jesus Christ, came into this sinful world to change our final chapter. By His suffering, death, and resurrection, all who believe on Him are forgiven and their eternity is changed.

Because of Jesus, when the last page of our lives in this world is being written, we will appear before the judgment seat of the Savior. There we will receive the right rewards of what we have done.

And believers -- because of Jesus -- will be found holy, pure, and righteous. Because of Jesus, their good works will be remembered and their sins will be forgotten.

On that day, according to God's grace and plan and by means of the Savior's victory, the scales will be balanced and we will all count ourselves rich beyond imagining.
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« Reply #2926 on: March 28, 2009, 09:30:01 AM »

 "Economic Crisis And Faith"

And taking the five loaves and the two fish He (Jesus) looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And He divided the two fish among them all. Mark 6:41

Today, people are very concerned about the economies in their countries and around the world. There's talk of huge unemployment problems and global recession, and there's much worry about the basic necessities of shelter and food. There are so many problems to get overwhelmed by it is easy to forget our Lord Jesus Christ has promised not to give us a load heavier than we can bear.

God also told us He will provide through every circumstance (Matthew 6:25-34). And that includes all our troubles, out-of-work times, and economic hardships. Like the birds of the air we should not be anxious for our food or the requirements of our bodies, for He will meet each and every necessity. God, who provided sinners a Savior in Jesus Christ, can surely meet our daily needs as they arise.

Let Him take charge of your concerns, your worries, and your future. He is a God who can and will meet your every need.
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« Reply #2927 on: March 28, 2009, 09:30:57 AM »

 "Free Like Eagles"

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Sometimes, stories come across my desk I don't like so very much. One that I was given years ago isn't very pretty, but it sure does paint a clear picture.

The story took place in the Alleghenies and it occurred at a time when such activities were still legal. Back then a hunter shot a large golden eagle. Examining the beautiful bird, he found one of its claws was held fast in a steel trap from which dangled a five-foot chain.

Although the trap was not heavy enough to stop the bird from flying, the additional weight wearied the eagle, kept him from flying as high as he might, and eventually brought him down within reach of the hunter's shotgun.

Sad story, isn't it?

Of course, it's not nearly as sad as those souls caught in the trap of sin and the snare of Satan. At creation the Lord designed His people to be free and filled with unending happiness. Sadly, Satan seduced our first ancestors, and we have been trapped ever since. Temptations, vices, sins -- these are traps that pull us down, making each day a struggle. These are the snares that take the unbeliever to his death.

If you, or someone you know, has been or is caught in such a trap, I'm pleased to share there is good news. Understand that good news doesn't come in the form of some sort of self-help advice. That would be futile. Just as an eagle cannot free itself from a steel trap, we cannot release ourselves from Satan's capture.

No, our good news is this: God has sent His Son to seek and save the trapped. Sinful souls, who repent and acknowledge Jesus as Lord will, as Isaiah says, "renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles." By Jesus' sacrifice they will be empowered to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint.
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« Reply #2928 on: March 29, 2009, 09:05:53 AM »

 "All The Way"

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

One of the great mysteries of life is the difficulty people have in making up their minds.

There is a reason for this: in coming to a decision, most people usually only decide to do something halfway. If you want to see this principle in action, just watch a child jump into a swimming pool for the first time. He wants to be in the water, but he's just not sure.

That was not the situation for Cortez when he began his conquest of Mexico in 1519. With a small force of less than a thousand men on shore, the story goes that Cortez set fire to his fleet of 11 ships. His soldiers watched their ships -- their only link back to the outside world, their only way of escape -- burn and sink to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

From that moment on there was only one direction they could go: forward -- forward into Mexico and forward to meet their future and their fate. Cortez was a fellow who believed in going all the way.

God says people who wish to follow Him should also go all the way. That's what the Psalmist was telling us: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart" -- not with a quarter or half your heart.

The Lord knows it is not wise to try and follow Him and the world. There are too many divided loyalties, too many conflicts. When the world tries to pull us one way, God wants us to go the other.

This leads us to an interesting thought, which might have some practical applications. Are your days filled with confusion, pain, and doubt? Do you seem to be spiritually spinning your wheels without getting anywhere? If so, then ask yourself this: "Am I only going halfway?"

This is why this devotion encourages you to let go of the world and let the Lord take hold of you -- all the way. Let Him, because of what His Son has done through His life, death, and resurrection, help and direct you -- all the way.

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« Reply #2929 on: March 30, 2009, 08:16:51 AM »

 "Devil Made Me Do It"

And the LORD God said unto the woman, "what is this that thou hast done?" And the woman said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Genesis 3:13 (KJV)

Many of the Daily Devotion's younger readers won't remember the late comedian Flip Wilson, nor will they recall how he always got a laugh when he said, "The devil made me do it."

According to an article carried by the Associated Press, a woman in Arlington, Washington, has done her best to revive that line. Only this time, nobody is laughing.

The 62-year-old lady who had worked for the Arlington Free Methodist Church had, over the years of her employment, forged the pastor's name on over 80 checks. The amount she had stolen amounted to $73,575.18. Afraid she would lose her house; the woman said she used the cash to pay for household expenses.

According to police, the woman seemed relieved her crime had been uncovered. When she was confronted, she said "Satan had a big part in the theft."

As sad as that case is, I am pleased to see the woman has made her confession.

Not too many people do that, you know. Far too many are like Eve who tried to pass the blame onto the snake who had slyly whispered some sinful suggestions into her ear.

To confess our wrongdoing -- according to the apostle John, that's something Christians ought to do. To encourage us in acknowledging our sinful shortcomings he wrote "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

Flip Wilson was wrong. The devil doesn't make us do it. He can make it easier and more convenient to sin; he can lead us to think expediency is better than obedience to the Lord. But when all is said and done, we are the ones who do the sinning, and we are the ones who need the Savior.

Thanks be the Christ has come. With faith in Him we are forgiven and cleansed from all we have done wrong.
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« Reply #2930 on: March 31, 2009, 08:10:35 AM »

 "Pick A Disaster"

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Doctor John Beddington, Britain's top scientific advisor, has said, "By the year 2030, the demand for food and fresh water are going to create a crisis with dire consequences."

Of course, those who study the Aztec and Mayan calendars say the human race won't make it that long. After all, those ancient empires predicted the end of the age was going to come in 2012.

And if you don't trust the Mayans or Aztecs, there is a best-selling book that maintains Sir Isaac Newton calculated the end of the world would come around 2013.

If you're not into mathematics, you might put your money on Nostradamus, who, some think, predicted the finish of this earth would happen before 2030.

The practical among us might figure, what with countries like North Korea having the atomic bomb, and global warming melting the ice caps, and the possibility of a great solar flare disrupting all things electronic, the odds aren't very good we will even last until 2030.

With all of these prophets of doom running around a smart person might get depressed and a regular individual might join in that old Hee-Haw chorus: "If it weren't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, agony on me."

In contrast to all of the negative news and depressing prognostications, we Christians hear the Psalmist who said: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man."

Indeed!

The heavenly Father has shown His great love for us in sending His Son to be both Ransom and Redeemer. Because of Holy Spirit-given faith in Jesus we know the Lord remains in control of this world. When, and not before, He decrees the Last Day has dawned, our expectations will be high, and our longing for heaven will be realized.

Being able to take refuge in the Lord is a great comfort. It's the only comfort for any of us who turn on the evening news and for all believers who hear humanity's latest promise of catastrophe and the end of life as they know it.
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« Reply #2931 on: April 01, 2009, 09:01:43 AM »

 "A Good Idea At The Time"


And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Genesis 2:18

The Center for Disease Control has announced the figure: unwed mothers account for 40 percent of all babies born in the U.S. Buried in the findings is another statistic: less than one fourth of those births happen to teenagers.

Simply stated, those figures mean many women -- women who know what they are doing -- have decided marriage and children don't necessarily go hand-in-hand.

Many of these women who have themselves come from broken homes, have decided some men aren't spiritually, emotionally, morally, and financially fit to be fathers. That's understandable. What is not understandable is why these ladies get involved with these guys at all.

What the Center for Disease Control doesn't say is this: children born to single mothers have a much higher incidence of being poor, having behavioral and psychological problems, dropping out of school, and having their own one-parent families.

The Center for Disease Control doesn't say, as Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution said to Congress in 1999, that the increase in single-parent families mostly due to unwed motherhood "can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970."

Finally, the Center for Disease Control doesn't say the Lord was right when He decreed men and women were designed to support each other in a life-long commitment to Him and each other.

Most certainly, the world, sin, and Satan do their best to place terrible burdens, problems, and pains upon any family. Without the Savior and the ongoing presence and power of the Holy Spirit, every household will find itself strained to the breaking point.

Still, God's intentions are clear and His blessings are promised to husbands and wives who follow the Savior and try to glorify Him with their lives and at their own family altar. By His grace, may the statistics of such committed Christian men and women also grow and be a witness to our sinful, selfish world.
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« Reply #2932 on: April 02, 2009, 09:44:06 AM »

 "How About You?"

. . . if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. Luke 16:30b-31

I once was asked, "If Al Capone offered your church a million dollars, and you knew that money came from illegal activities, would you take it?"

Over the years, I've shared that question with other pastors and have received a spectrum of different and, sometimes, very emotion-filled answers.

The same thing is true in regard to the outreach style of Southern Baptist evangelist Ronnie Hill. Hill, who speaks at rodeos, motorcycle events, and NASCAR races, offers a prize to attract people to hear his message.

Right now, Hill is offering people a chance to win a new car if they listen to his testimony on how Jesus saved his life. Those folks opting to hear his testimony will have their names passed on to a local congregation near them, and one of them will win a car.

Recently, I was asked how I felt about Hill's evangelism tactics. I spent considerable time thinking about my answer. I have my answer; you probably have yours. Maybe you thought bribing people to hear the Gospel story just might work for a lot of folks who might not be reached in any other way. At the same time, I don't ever remember the disciples offering their listeners a chance to win a camel or chariot if they heard the Savior's story of salvation.

In truth, it's not my job to judge Ronnie Hill's methodology. I do know the forgiveness and eternal life Jesus won for sinful humanity remains God's gracious good news of great joy for all people who are brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I also know that if freedom from the flames of hell is not motivation enough for someone to believe in the Redeemer, if an eternity of joy in heaven is not enough to get folks to consider the Christ, then something is wrong. To expand Jesus' words in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" -- even if that someone offers them a new car.
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« Reply #2933 on: April 03, 2009, 08:49:56 AM »

 "He Gives Strength And Power"

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Isaiah 40:29

He Gives Strength And Power

Exhaustion and weakness are never desirable. When looking for someone to lead a sports team, it is always the quickest and toughest who are considered first. Nations look to ally with more powerful nations. Children look for stronger friends, while the weak and frail remain lonely. Even in churches, some pastors may align with the more prominent and wealthy members of their congregations, and the weaker ones go underserved.

However, all human signs of strength and power fade into nothingness when faced with the immeasurable power of God. In the face of His power, our human strength turns to pathetic trembling and weakness.

But with our God, the weak are made powerful; the tired and weary are made strong. Our God is good. He renews the strength of those who wait on Him. He delivers and restores His distressed people as they seek Him in prayer and obedience. We, as His people, are called to trust Him and draw strength from Him. In the power of God's might, our greatest need is as nothing to Him.

The work of our salvation required the greatest power there is. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, took on the weight of our sins and, by His death and resurrection, delivered us from the clutches of the enemy. The tomb of Jesus was sealed, yet on Easter morning -- because of His saving power -- that tomb burst open and was empty! Jesus rose from the dead! It had no power over Him and, through faith in Christ, it has no power over us.

Praise the Lord! His power is immeasurable, and He gives it to all who wait for Him and call on His name.
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« Reply #2934 on: April 04, 2009, 10:23:31 AM »

 "Scorning Your Master"

The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. Toward the scorners He is scornful, but to the humble He gives favor. The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace. Proverbs 3:33-35

I don't mind April Fool's Day as long as I remember it.

We just celebrated that special day and one of the folks at The Lutheran Hour got me good. I had forgotten. Maybe the same thing has happened to you.

Being surprised was certainly what happened to the lady who, while watching TV, heard a dog instructor say you can test a dog's attitude. He said, "The master should pretend to be hurt. An ill-tempered dog will tend to bite, but a good-tempered dog will lick the fallen owner's face."

The lady decided to put her two dogs to the test. While eating pizza in her living room, she stood up, clutched her heart, screamed, and fell to the floor. Her two dogs looked at her, looked at each other, and raced to scarf down her pizza.

It occurs to me that God often feels like the owner of those two canines when He deals with us.

He has done His best to save us by sending His Son to give His life as our ransom from sin, death, and Satan. Sadly, some reject the Savior's sacrifice. In so doing they are much like the dogs who scorn their master and think only of themselves.

Those of us who are Christians should know we should do what is right: we should run to worship Him who gave His life for our eternity. But, April Fool! We humans are unpredictable, and we Christians don't always do what is right.

This is just my way of saying, I don't care if you remember April Fool's Day when it comes around next year. I do care if you give the Master the praise and thanks that are His due.
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« Reply #2935 on: April 05, 2009, 09:07:53 AM »

 "Power To Stop The Waves"

And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" Mark 4:39-40

Throughout the world, most of Christianity has begun its celebration of Holy Week.

With repentant hearts, the Christ's redeemed remember how the crowds welcomed the Savior into Jerusalem. But they also recall how, a few days later, crowds screamed for Jesus' crucifixion.

Crowds can be fickle like that. Their opinions flip like pancakes.

Almost 1,000 years ago, a king by the name of Canute, grew tired of the false flattery of the people gathered around him. To show the limitations of his power, Canute had his throne taken to the seashore. With a stern voice, he commanded the tide not to come in.

You won't be surprised to hear, in spite of the kingly decree, the waves came crashing in anyway.

In my readings, I am convinced there has been only one person in all of history who has had the power to stop the waves: Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, on the Sea of Galilee, the Savior showed He could stop a storm with one word.

Still, as impressive as that display of power was, Jesus showed even greater strength by not responding to the cries of the crowds, or defending Himself against those who lied about Him, beat Him, and crucified Him.

In order to save us, Jesus put His powers on hold and died in our place. This He did because He never forgot His work -- first, foremost, and always -- was to complete His Father's plan of salvation. On behalf of Lutheran Hour Ministries, I invite you to join us this Holy Week in giving thanks to God for His Son of power: Jesus, the Savior.
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« Reply #2936 on: April 06, 2009, 08:25:47 AM »

 "Strange Custom"

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22

Years ago, tourists to the Fiji Islands returned home speaking of a strange native custom: the custom that was known as 'the calling of the dead.'

When someone had lost a loved one, he was encouraged to climb to the top of a high tree or a cliff. From that lofty spot, a spot where his voice would carry a long distance, he would call out the name of the deceased.

Then, as loudly as possible, he would yell, "Come back! Come back!"

You will not be surprised if I tell you there was never any record of a dead individual responding to the sorry summons. Indeed, the only reply that was ever heard was the mocking of an empty echo that came back again and again.

Eventually, and at long last, the disappointed and forlorn mourner was forced to return to his village. There, with his plea unanswered, he would try to pick up his life and continue on.

In stark contrast to that lonely picture is the joy that is given by the risen Redeemer to all who believe on Him. Through Christ's perfect life, His suffering, His death and resurrection the chains of sin are shattered and death no longer has a final victory.

Yes, believers mourn, but they are spared the despair that rules in the hearts of those who have no hope. Yes, we suffer heartache when a dear one goes to rest, but we know, because of Jesus' third-day victory, our pain is of short duration.

Because of the Savior's resurrection we know that in Christ all will be made alive.

Which is why, for us, the native's plaintive call, "Come back!" has been replaced by the Easter shout, "Christ is risen and because of Christ all believers shall be made alive."

"Christ is risen." "He is risen, indeed!"
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« Reply #2937 on: April 07, 2009, 10:40:14 AM »

 "Real Safety"


I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

In 1754, William Stukeley said the Great Wall of China could be seen from the moon.

Stukeley was wrong. On the other hand, the Wall, which cost the lives of an estimated 2 million people, is a most impressive structure. Built to keep the barbarians out, the Wall was guarded by 1 million soldiers.

It is understandable that the people of China would feel secure knowing they were protected by a wall so high nobody would climb over it, so thick no army could break it down.

And if you're wondering how long their security lasted, I can tell you... "not very long."

During the first 100 years of the Wall's history China was invaded three times. No, their enemies didn't break down the Wall and they didn't climb over the top. The conquerors didn't need to exert themselves that much. Each time the Wall was breached because the invading army had produced enough cash to bribe a gatekeeper. Without a struggle China's enemies marched right on in.

Having a misplaced faith isn't confined to the nations of the world. Sooner or later most folks find the things they have trusted, the things they counted on, just aren't that reliable.

Friendship, cash, gold, just about everything, can, and does, manage to let us down.

Everything, that is, except Jesus.

The Savior who gave His life so we might have life; who carried sin so we might be forgiven, can be trusted. Knowing this Scriptural truth the Psalmist proudly proclaims: 'The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress. The Lord is my Deliverer.'

In truth, the Lord is the only Person who can be counted on; who will always come through. Because of Jesus' life, suffering, death, and resurrection we are saved from our enemies. Because of His victory over these unholy foes we are enabled to praise Him.

Indeed, praising is what the redeemed do... this Holy Week and always.
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« Reply #2938 on: April 08, 2009, 09:09:19 AM »

 "Courage To Care"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:3-5

The boy was watching when the woman stepped off a sandbar into the ocean's deep current.

He watched as the woman panicked. He watched as 20 adults, all dressed in their bathing attire, looked at the woman and listened to her cries for help. Wondering if anybody would do anything, the boy found himself cheering when, at long last, a fully-clothed young man dove into the water and brought the woman to safety.

On the way home, the boy spoke to his father about the events he had witnessed and the anger he felt toward those folks who had stood by and done nothing.

Later on, he recalled what his father had said that day. As an explanation, his father wisely told him, "The world often seems divided between those who care and those who don't care enough. But don't judge too harshly. It takes courage to care greatly."

Courage to care greatly.

This Holy Week, we will see the Savior, and we will see just how greatly He cared for you and me. Thirty-three years earlier, He had left heaven and had been given a manger for His first bed.

From that moment, until the very end, His life had been spent resisting Satan's many temptations and avoiding all of humanity's transgressions. Every one of those days had been marked by Jesus' caring.

Now, as the Savior's earthly life was drawing to a close, His caring would be proven again. Jesus' commitment would have Him carry our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. His caring would have Him keep silent when liars were brought to His trial to testify against Him.

Not the nails, but His caring, His dedication to the salvation of humanity's sinful souls would keep Him on the cross until He could say; "It is finished." From beginning to the end Jesus had shown His courage to care.

And this week we remember, and we give thanks for what He has done.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #2939 on: April 09, 2009, 09:10:28 AM »

 "Our Substitute"

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 20b-21

If you didn't want to serve in Napoleon's army, you didn't have to.

That's right. Back then, you could hire a replacement, a substitute, to take your place. That's exactly what one man did. When he was drafted, he hired a friend to take his place.

Unfortunately, that friend was killed in battle.

Then, as such things happen, through a clerical error, the young man, the one who had done the hiring, was drafted again. When he appeared before the draft board, the summary of his argument was this: "You can't make me go... I have been killed in a battle."

Of course, with the young man standing right in front of them, the bureaucrats thought they had a pretty good case, too.

Eventually, the man's plea was brought to Napoleon. After examining the evidence, the Emperor passed down his judgment. His decree said, "Through a surrogate, this man has not only fought, but has died in his country's service. No man can die more than once; therefore the law has no claim on him."

This Holy Week, Christians give thanks for their heaven-sent Surrogate. Purely by grace and out of love for lost humanity, Jesus came to earth to be our Substitute. So we might be forgiven and freed from the law's curse He lived, suffered, died, and rose.

As St. Paul says, 'Jesus who committed no sin of His own, carried the sins of everyone else. By His sacrifice believers are forgiven, saved and made righteous.'

To paraphrase the Emperor: 'No believer can die more than once. Because of Jesus' life, suffering, death, and resurrection, sin, death, and Satan cannot lay claim upon those who acknowledge Christ as their Substitute.'
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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