A Story of Grace...


Romans 5:6-8 tells us: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

One of the darkest moments of human history is the holocaust of WWII. Of the death camps that the Nazi’s used to eliminate various undesirable people Auschwitz was perhaps one of the worst. Prisoners at Auschwitz were given less food than needed to survive and even the strongest prisoners were on the brink of starvation and death.

In order to discourage escapes Auschwitz had a rule that if a man escaped ten men would be killed in retaliation. It was July of 1941 that a prisoner escaped. The commandant, Karl Fritsch, had all the men from that bunker turn out and line up outside. “The fugitive has not been found!” the commandant screamed. “You will all pay for this. Ten of you will be locked in the starvation bunker without food or water until they die.” The prisoners trembled in terror. A few days in this bunker without food and water, and a man's intestines dried up and his brain turned to fire.

The ten men were selected. When one prisoners name was called, Franciszek Gajowniczek, he could not help a cry of anguish, “My poor wife!” he sobbed. “My poor children! What will they do?” To everyone’s astonishment another man who had not been selected to die stepped out of line and approached the commandant, took of his cap, and spoke, “Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children and I have none.”

Everyone held their breath. There was no telling what the commandant would do. To everyone’s surprise the commandant agreed and took Maximilian Kolbe, a Christian, to replace Gasanovocheck. The ten men were marched to the starvation bunker to die an agonizingly slow and painful death.

Gasanovocheck later recalled:

"I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me - a stranger. Is this some dream?

I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this."

Gasanovocheck lived to be 95 years old. Every year of the 53 years that Kolbe’s sacrifice gave him he returned to Auschwitz to honor the sacrifice that was made to allow him to live.

Hearing this story I cannot help but to relate. Each one of us stood condemned before the God of the universe. Romans tells us that the wages of sin is death and for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all stood condemned. If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ then when God calls our name to be judged Jesus steps forward and stands in our place having already taken our punishment. Dying a horrible death at calvary Christ died for us. We do not deserve this. We are unworthy. We are powerless. That is exactly why it is grace, a free gift of life.

PRAYER: Father, we do not deserve your mercy or grace but how desperate we are for it. We stood condemned but you saved us from your wrath and so we praise You before all men. Thank you for the life you have given us. Give us the courage and strength to return that life to You lived to the full in Jesus Christ. In HIs name--Amen.

A Modern Violence

Today's Devotional Thought:

Ephesians 5:15-16: "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

I remember as a young boy being examined by a Doctor. He had a stethoscope. Lifting my shirt he put its cold metal to my chest and I looked on in obvious fascination. The Doctor perceiving my interest let me listen. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. There is something profound in hearing your own heartbeat, even for a little boy. Now as a middle-aged man I still remember that ker-chunk, ker-chunk. It has stayed with me all my life because in a very primal way it is my life. There is a number of ker-chunks that I get and I will get no less and no more. There is only One who knows my number, God, and when my number is up I will find myself standing before Him to give an account of what I did with those ker-chunks. The Bible says, "Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..." (Hebrews 9:27).

It may be a morbid thought but it is the motivation that undergirds a well-lived life. For the "days are evil," and we must redeem the time for good. Everyone who has ever lived to do great things for Christ, to become something great for God, lived with the sense of their limited ker-chunks. Not that the work is all ours but neither is it not ours. If life is a boat some view life as a row boat where they must do all the work to get ahead. They live life under their own power and always come up short. Others view life like a cruise ship where they do none of the work and God does everything. They love Ephesians 2:8-9, that salvation is a gift from God, not by works, but they stop reading before they get to verse 10, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." So, life is neither a row boat or a cruise ship but rather like a sail ship. It is up to us to raise the sails but it is the power of God's wind that moves us forward.

The well-lived life is a life lived under God's power but also lived wisely. It was Thomas Merton, writing in the 1960's, who described his day as a form of violence. He said, "There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence. The rush and pressures of modern life are a form of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, to succumb to violence ... The frenzy of the activist ... destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." [Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Image, 1968), page 81]. This was written well before iPhones, the Internet, Facebook, personal computers, and the proliferation of TVs. Merton may have been underestimating the rush and pressure and "innate violence" of our age. 

The wisdom then is a wisdom of priorities. Consider Japan. Japan will host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Ironically their initial designs for the National Stadium did not include a place for the Olympic flame. Such a glaring oversight further affirms what the late Stephen Covey (1932-2012) wisely wrote, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." [Time, 3/28/16, p.74; Primary Greatness, Stephen Covey, 2015, p.74] We must be wise not only in what we choose to do but also what we choose not to do.

Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. What will you do today? Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. It's time to raise the sail and see where God will take us.

Prayer: Holy Father, You who know the exact number of our ker-chunks. Our lives are Your gift to us. What we do with them is our gift to You. May You be pleased in how we raise our sails. May You fill those sails with Your power so we can redeem the time You give us. For Your glory, we live and we pray, in Jesus name, amen.

"I've wasted it!"


Today's thought:

James 4:14, "...What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

In his book Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper recounts a story his father often told in his days as a fiery Baptist evangelist. It is the story of a man who came to saving faith in Jesus Christ near the end of his earthly existence. Piper writes:

"The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone's amazement he came and took my father's hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face, "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!"

By the grace of God, even a life that is almost totally wasted can still be redeemed. As the Scottish theologian Thomas Boston once said, our present existence is only "a short preface to a long eternity." If that is true, then the man's life was not wasted after all; he was only just beginning an eternal life of endless praise. But why wait even a moment longer before starting to serve Jesus? Ephesiams 5:15-16, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." You have only one life to live. Don't waste it by living for yourself when you can use it instead for the glory of God.

[Read John Piper's full book, Don't Waste Your Life, free online at,]

Prayer: Father, we thank you that a life lived for You is never wasted. You redeem us and our lives from being wasted by Your grace and that grace can redeem a whole life that might have been wasted. What amazing grace that calls us into purpose, meaning and eternal existence. We praise Your name for heaven rains grace upon Your children. Let it rain today, LORD. We love you because You first loved us. In Jesus, amen.

What does Mt Saint Helens have to do with Sam Houston?

Today's thought:

Romans 6:3-4, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

On the wall of President Lyndon Johnson's White House office hung a framed letter written by General Sam Houston to Johnson's great-grandfather, Baines, more than 100 years earlier. Baines had led Sam Houston to Christ. Houston was a changed man, no longer coarse and belligerent but peaceful and content.

The day came for Houston to be baptized—an incredible event for those who knew him. After his baptism, Houston offered to pay half the local minister's salary. When someone asked him why, he said, "My pocketbook was baptized too."

We may not like the idea of dying to self, dying to sin, dying to our wishes, wants and purposes but that is exactly what Christ calls us to when he says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). We see the death of self—rightfully so—as complete, irrevocable, possibly painful. But without this death we can not be born into the living hope God has called us (1 Peter 1:3).

But we all must die one day or another. The Christian, in the wisdom God has given us through Christ, chooses to get it over with now so he will not have to go through it later. That later death will only be death. But now, if we are willing to die, we are born into life. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). If you do believe this it changes everything for us. Not just what we don't do but what we will do. It is a complete death. But here is the gospel paradox: it is through death that life comes. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Life that comes from death seems like a paradox but it is true.

Geologists said that the eruption of Mt Saint Helens was equivalent to 20,000 atomic bombs going off at once. Everything for hundereds of square miles was laid to waste at once. Every living creature died. Everything—flora, fauna animals. But a fascinating thing took place months later. Biologists flying around in planes observing the destruction began to notice areas where clumps of grass were sprouting. What they noticed is that the clumps of grass were in the shapes of animals—elk, bear, rabbits, ground squirrels. Where an animal had died new life began.

A paradox but true. "The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." Die to live. Deny yourself daily, take up your cross and live for God and you will live through God—a life that will never end, an abundant life.

Prayer: Father God, we do not like to think of death but by the death of our Savior, Jesus, we can have life and through the death of the self, which comes from faith, we do have life. May we see that simple truth that as death is complete so your Lordship over us is complete. We thank you that death is not the end but the beginning of the life you have for us and that life is abundant life in Jesus Christ in whose name we pray, amen.