Today two nephews and I buried my sister. She is my only sibling and the last of my close family that I had on this earth. The loss and the sadness are indeed great, but they are countered by our sure knowledge that she had received Jesus Christ as her Lord and is now rejoicing in His presence. She has entered into the next level of life that He bought and paid for by taking all of our sinfulness upon Himself and suffering through horrible torture and death to pay for it.
He did not remain dead. He rose from the grave with new life — life that He had earned the right to share with anyone and everyone who would accept His sacrifice and welcome Him into their hearts to reign over their lives. So my sister has just begun to experience the joys that surpass all of our knowledge here on earth, and she will be experiencing those joys and pleasures in an endless relationship with our loving Creator and Father.
Today’s experience has prompted me to speak out once again — to pose the question for anyone out there who has never answered it completely: Have you recognized Jesus Christ as the one who came from God to take your sin and set you free from the eternal punishment that it deserves? Have you accepted His sacrifice and His eternal life of joy in the presence of our Creator?
We usually shy away from contemplating the fact that we are going to die. But the simple truth is, dear reader, that you — and I — and every other human being on this planet — are going to die. The God who offers us an eternity of joy, victory, endless creativity, and love has told us clearly how to gain that kind of eternity. He has made it simple: Accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
You may ask, “Will believing and following anyone else work just as well?” In answer to that question, let me ask you a couple: Has anyone else willingly taken on your sin and suffered torture and death to pay for it? No? Has anyone else risen from the dead with victory over sin and death and with eternal life to share with everyone who wants it? No? Then you have your answer: No. There is no one else — no one else — who paid the price for you and your sin. There’s only one way to the eternity you want.
Today is the day to make the decision. Do you want to come to the hour when your body is laid in the ground only to discover that your soul and your spirit have passed into an eternal realm without God, without joy, without hope, without a chance of anything except torment — all because you refused the free gift of eternal life offered to you by Jesus Christ? I don’t believe that anyone truly wants to make that choice. I think, most of the time, people just don’t want to get serious enough to give the question its due consideration.
So I’m posting this encouragement today. Make today the day when you give the subject its due consideration. Make today the day when you accept Jesus Christ and His open invitation to step right into His loving, victorious presence when the hour comes that you take your last breath here.
I have so little time to post on this site currently, and I feel bad about that, so periodically, I take a nostalgic trip through my short story archives and pull something out to share again. I’ve acquired so many new followers over the past 5 or 6 years, and most of those people don’t go back years into my posts to read anything from that time period. That being the case, I feel okay about reposting some of the stories that haven’t seen an audience for several years. The two stories below are from the archives, and both deal with the theme of crime. They were originally written in response to a particular kind of writing challenge, but there’s no need to go into the details for this post. I hope any new readers will enjoy them– and maybe even a few old readers who have forgotten all about reading them almost 6 years ago. 🙂
THE CASE OF THE COPY-CAT CRIMES
Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes.
He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.
His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Holmes. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”
“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”
“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”
“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”
“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”
Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Holmes responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”
Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”
“Yes,” replied Holmes. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”
“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”
Two hours later, Becker walked into Holmes’ office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”
“You’ve got an address?”
Holmes rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”
ALL IN A NIGHT’S WORK
When Inspector McGregor arrived at the scene, he found the car, empty, with the driver’s door standing open, exactly as the caller had described. Refusing to give his name, the caller had simply reported what looked like an abandoned car sitting on an abandoned street, across from the printing plant.
The plant was shut down for the night, but security lights were on in the front, and evidently someone was still working in two of the offices upstairs. Inspector McGregor looked at his watch. They were certainly keeping strange hours. It was 3:30 in the morning. Even the bars across the street and in the next block had been closed for an hour and a half.
McGregor stood looking toward the plant, thinking, when suddenly he saw a face in one of the dark first-floor windows. The outside security light, with its eery blue cast, threw enough light on the window that even the split-second appearance of the face was clear enough to tell it had a fragile look about. It almost had to be a woman or a child.
Time to call for backup, McGregor decided, and radioed the station to pass on the information he had, get two more units on the way, and get a phone number for the printing plant office. “Look up Peter Hampton’s home number as well,” he said into the phone. “Whoever’s in the office now may not answer the phone, and I want him down here with a key immediately.”
When he signed off, he punched in the printing office number first. The street was so quiet he could actually hear the office phone ringing, but after five rings, the answering machine picked up. He hung up and immediately called Hampton’s house.
The machine picked up at the house as well, but before the message played through, Hampton had picked up the phone. “Yeah, Hampton here,” he said, his voice thick with sleep.
“Mr. Hampton,” this is Inspector Alan McGregor with the metropolitan police department.”
“Police! What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to alarm you, sir, but we have an unusual situation going on at your plant right now, and I need you to get down here and open up the door so we can get in and take a look around.”
“What do you mean unusual situation? And how do I know this is really the police?”
McGregor gritted his teeth, but at the same time, part of him was glad that Hampton didn’t just take off running in response to a call from someone without positive identification.
“I’m going to hang up, Mr. Hampton. And I want you to look up the number of the 7th precinct and call it. Ask them if they have an Inspector McGregor working on a case that involves your plant. They’ll verify everything I’ve told you, and then you get yourself down here. Understand?”
“Yes … yes … I can do that.”
“Don’t waste time, Hampton. I need you here now.”
“Yes … alright. I’m looking up the number now. I’ll hang up.”
“Fine,” McGregor answered. “And thank you.”
By the time he’d ended the call the other two patrol cars had joined him. He had requested no sirens, but their lights were flashing. Whoever was inside looking out had to know they were about to get a visit from the police. “Any ideas at all about who or what, Alan?” one of the other officers asked him.
“Well, I’d bet a month’s salary the face I saw belongs to a woman or a child. She could be in there with a couple others, and they could be in the middle of a burglary. Or she could have run inside for protection from something else. This car door standing wide open tells me the second possibility is more likely.”
“Sounds reasonable. But why would somebody running for safety park on this side of the street if they were going into that building?”
McGregor shook his head, deep in thought, and just then Peter Hampton drove up, slammed on his brakes, and jumped out of the car. McGregor met him at the front door of the building, and Hampton unlocked the door, all the time emphasizing that the lights upstairs should not be on. “No one is supposed to be here at all, Inspector,” he insisted.
“Okay, it helps to know that. Now, you go back to your car, Mr. Hampton. We’ll take it from here. We don’t want you in the middle of anything that could be a threat to you.”
Hampton gladly obeyed, and McGregor and two of the officers eased through the front doorway. The other two officers had gone around the back to make sure no one left from that direction.
McGregor flipped on the overhead lights in the front reception area. “Police!” he shouted. “You need to come out into the open and identify yourself. The building’s surrounded. Come out where we can see you now!”
“Please! Please don’t shoot,” a thin shaky voice answered. “It’s only me, Carla Watson,” the voice continued, and slowly a young woman rose up from behind a desk on the right side of the room. She held her hands up as if in surrender, and she was shaking with fright. “Please, I was only hiding from some men who were chasing me. Honest. I didn’t mean to break in.” Her voice broke then and she began to sob.
McGregor told the other two officers to check out the rest of the building, and he walked closer to the girl. “Are you here alone?” McGregor asked.
“Yes,” she answered, trying to stifle her sobs. “Could I please get a tissue out of my pocket?” She asked, looking at him pitifully.
“Sure. You can put your hands down and come out here and sit down.”
She obediently moved from behind the desk and walked to a chair in the waiting area, at the same time digging into her sweater pocket for her tissues. When she had blown her nose and managed to get control of the tears to some extent, McGregor propped himself on the corner of a desk and asked her for her story.
“I was coming out of the Family Savings store and three men were standing out in the parking lot. They started to make suggestive comments to me and when I just hurried on to my car, they started following me. I jumped in and locked my door and got my car started, but they were right beside my door, banging on the window. I managed to take off though, but they jumped into their car and followed me.
“It was awful, I tried to go fast enough to lose them, but they kept up with me. Finally, I came to a red light and just ran through it. I should have known they would do the same thing. There was almost no other traffic on those streets, and I kept turning abruptly, trying to lose them. Finally, when a truck came across the road between me and them, they had to come to a stop, and I managed to turn two more corners and found myself on this street.
“A friend of mine works at the printing plant, and I remembered her saying that sometimes the ink odor is so strong they often open one of the windows on the back side of the building — one on the alley. I saw the lights on upstairs, and I just hoped that maybe I could find a window open. I pulled the car up on the other side of the street, hoping that if the men found the car, they’d think I had run in that direction and would start looking for me there. That would give me more time to get away. I ran faster than I’ve ever run to get to the alley, and I prayed the whole way that the window would be open. It was. I crawled in and closed and locked it behind me.”
“But you didn’t go upstairs to get help?”
“Well, after I’d gotten in and walked toward the front of the building, I realized I didn’t hear anything upstairs that sounded like people moving around or talking. I figured someone had just left the lights on by mistake, so I decided to stay down here — at least until I could glance out the window a time or two and make sure I wasn’t followed.”
“And did they follow you?”
She nodded her head and then shivered. McGregor stepped over to her and patted her shoulder. “You’re safe now, Carla. Just tell me everything you can about them.”
She nodded. I glanced out once and saw that they were getting out of their car and heading down the street the other direction as I had hoped they would. I didn’t think they’d try to get into any buildings that were locked, so I thought I was probably safe in here. But I did try to glance out another time or two to see what was happening. They finally came back and got into their car. But while they were gone from it, I managed to look at it long enough to get the license number.”
“Good girl!” McGregor said now, patting her shoulder again. Then he pulled out a pen and pad and took down the number she gave him. She also gave him a fairly good description of two of the men.
McGregor nodded his head as he wrote down what she said. “Yes, I think I many know one of these guys already. And if it’s who I think it is, he’s out of prison on parole, and this is going to go down hard on him.”
By that time all four of the other officers had scouted out the entire building and reported that no one else was on the premises. McGregor sent one man out to get Peter Hampton, and when he had checked out the situation himself, he came to the conclusion that the janitor had evidently left a couple lights on.
“He’s new and, frankly, I’m not sure how reliable he is.” He thought for a moment. “Well, evidently, from what I see now, he’s pretty unreliable. I’ll have a serious talk with him tomorrow. But I don’t see anything out of place – and nothing seems to be missing – so I’d say he’s probably the one who left the lights ——” He stopped abruptly and looked at Carla. “Hey, how did you get in here anyway!”
She explained about the open window in back and then added. “I’m just so grateful it was open, and so glad the lights were on,” said Carla. “I don’t think I would have thought about trying to get in here if they hadn’t been. So … please … Mr. Hampton, don’t be too hard on your janitor.”
Hampton couldn’t help but grin. “Well, Missy, I guess if his leaving those lights on and the window open saved you from some serious harm, I’ll have to give him another chance to prove he’s dependable.”
McGregor chuckled, as did a couple of the other officers. Then he turned to Carla. “Is there someone at your home so that you won’t have to be there alone for right now?”
“Yes, my sister lives with me there,” she said. “And, as a matter of fact,” she added, looking at her watch, “I bet she’s starting to worry about me right now. My cell phone was dead, or I would have called her and told her to send help. I picked up one of the office phones here, but I couldn’t get it to give me an outside line. I couldn’t figure out all the buttons in the dark.”
“Well, I’m going to follow you home right now, and I’ll go in with you and talk with your sister. Then tomorrow, I’ll get in touch with you and let you know how we’re doing at making sure those men don’t get it into their heads to pull the same stunt with some other young lady. We may need you to identify a couple of them if we can bring them in. Are you willing to do that?”
“Can I do it without them seeing me?”
Carla nodded her head. “Then I’ll be glad to.”
“Good,” McGregor said, taking her arm gently. “Now let’s get you home.” They started for the door, and McGregor looked back at Peter Hampton. “Thanks for all your help Mr. Hampton. I hope you can still get a little sleep before you start your work day.”
Peter Hampton chuckled. “I don’t know, Inspector. When I get home, I’m going to have to fill my wife in on all that’s happened. And she’s not one to be satisfied with a summary. Like any good woman, she wants all the little details, and she wants them in chronological order. I figure I’m up for the day, but, all in all, I feel good knowing I could be a little help in keeping crime off the streets of our fair city. “
“But as for me, I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercies.” (KJV).
Another translation of this verse says, “I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house.” (NRV).
I was just reading along in Psalms this morning, and when I came to this verse, I was struck by the power of it. I felt the impact of how great the mercy of God is for each of us — and how we don’t need to be afraid or even hesitant to enter into His presence freely.
That truth is the result of Jesus, and His sacrifice on our behalf, of course. Because He took all of our sin and uncleanness, and washed it all away with His blood, the Father God looks at us through Jesus and welcomes us gladly. All we need to plead is Jesus’ blood, and abundant mercy engulfs us.
What a relief. And what a joy to know that when we are in need or in trouble of any kind, we have a standing invitation to run to our God, and we can know that when we get to the door that leads into His presence, an abundance of mercy will be filling that doorway and lighting our path to God, ushering us into His waiting arms.
Of course, hopefully, we won’t wait until we’re in trouble to seek His presence. It thrills His heart for us to go to Him just for the sake of being with Him and enjoying His company. But when we are in need, we don’t have to be hesitant about going to Him. It doesn’t matter how much we’ve messed things up, or how deeply we’ve embedded ourselves in the muck and mire of our own sin and foolishness. There is ABUNDANT mercy and ABOUNDING love waiting to carry us to our Father, who waits expectantly to welcome us and give Himself to working out our problems and making us whole again.
(I originally wrote this article over a year ago, but at a time in our society when there is so much that divides us, incenses us, and hurts us, I felt an urging by the Holy Spirit to share it again now.)
“A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” (Matthew 12:20, KJV).
These words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, described Jesus Christ, both in the Old Testament prophecy forecasting His coming, and in the New Testament as He carried out His earthly ministry. The words referred to the fact that Jesus was careful not to put down or belittle people who came to Him, even when they were weak in faith, or because they were lacking in some area of consecration or obedience.
Now, to be sure, He did on occasion ask His own disciples, “Why are you fearful, or why did you doubt?” But those words were not intended as reprimands, but as questions to cause them to think and learn. They were in training, after all, and were supposed to be learning from Him and growing in faith and the demonstration of it. They were in a different position from the average person who came to Jesus for ministry.
Throughout His earthly walk, Jesus was kind and compassionate to everyone who had need of Him. If the people He dealt with had even a smoldering bit of faith, or just a heart-felt desire to connect with Him, He welcomed them and spoke and acted in such a way as to encourage them. To the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda, who evidently had some lack of initiative if he’d been supposedly “trying to get to the pool” for 38 years, Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be made well?” And then, even though the man’s only response was to complain about not having any other people to help him, Jesus proceeded to heal him completely. (John 5:1-15).
And look at His treatment of Zacchaeus, who was a first-rank sinner (self-confessed) and who had no obvious faith or obedience going for him. Just the fact that Zacchaeus wanted to know more about Jesus — enough to climb into a tree so that he could see Jesus better as He went through town — was enough for Jesus to call him over and invite Himself to Zacchaeus’ house — showing him both honor and compassion at the same time. (Luke 19:1-10).
Even when Jesus knew He had to deliver a strong word to a person who sought something from Him, His focus was on loving that person and responding in the most compassionate way possible. In Mark’s gospel (chapter 10) Jesus is approached by a rich young ruler who asks for instructions for inheriting eternal life. This young man had sought to follow the rules of the law in conduct, but he obviously had a heart problem that would keep him from being in unity with God.
Jesus knew the man would need to let go of the pride he had in following the rules and experience a heart change that would cause him to truly give of himself to help others. Jesus knew HIs instructions would come as a blow to this young man, and the first thing we learn about Jesus in this situation is that He “loved” the young man. He spoke to him words that were necessary, but they were not spoken in rebuke, but in love and compassion.
Another time, when Jesus’ disciples told Him of other ministers who were delivering people in Jesus’ name but were not following Him, Jesus said to leave them alone because if they were not “against” Him, then they were “for” Him. He didn’t rebuke those other ministers or even correct them. (Luke 9:49-50)
Wherever He went, Jesus was looking for ways to lift people up, encourage them, and help them grow in their relationship with their Creator.
Several years ago I read words by another minister that said, in effect, that we should be careful not to destroy someone’s imperfect faith because, at the time we’re interacting with that individual, it’s the only faith that person has. But it’s likely that, given time and encouragement, that imperfect faith will grow into something stronger and purer.
I’ve learned over the years that there’s a good deal of wisdom in those words, and I’ve seen people’s faith grow exceedingly. In fact, my own faith has grown, changed, grown some more, and changed some more over some sixty years of life as a Christian. So I know the potential is there.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about this particular subject matter lately, and I believe the reason is that the Lord is showing me it’s really important to encourage people in these areas. I think I’ve always been an encourager in general, but I know, at times, I also tend to hold back when I see that a person has areas of his life or faith that are most definitely unscriptural. I sometimes tend to concentrate more on trying to “help” them get “fixed” in those areas rather than encouraging the little bit of positive in them — that smoking flax of faith or that character trait that is slightly bruised.
But I believe the Lord is saying that I need to refocus and concentrate on encouraging for a while rather than fixing. It may be that enough encouragement of the positive — even if it’s just smoldering or somewhat bruised or damaged — will strengthen those people enough to help them go on and eventually get the other stuff fixed.
And, after all, God is the real “fixer” — not me. And I’m also aware that there are a number of areas in my own life that need “fixing” as well. Certainly, I need to pray for the people in my life where the negative areas are concerned, so that the Lord has an open channel to work in their lives. But I need to let Him take care of the fixing and use my energy and influence to encourage those individuals. Encouragement in the right places can sometimes put us in a stronger position so that we can better receive the help God has for us.
So, as I move forward in my life, one of my primary spiritual goals is going to be to encourage every positive thing I see in every person I’m with, and to do so in the name of Jesus Christ — who never broke a bruised reed (damaged person) or quenched any smoking flax (smoldering faith.) I believe if I’ll be faithful to do my part, He will be able to do all the rest of the work necessary to bring them to wholeness and overcoming faith.
Every single thing on this earth is going to pass away into nothingness at some point — everything, that is, except the people living on this planet. Every one of those people will live forever — for all eternity — either in the joyous presence of the Lord Himself, or in a place of sorrow and torment because they refused to choose the one way that leads to life with God.
Since everything else that we acquire, build, play with, and regard as valuable is heading for dissolution, shouldn’t we be focused intently on the people who pass through our lives? They all have one chance — one lifetime — to accept God’s offer of eternity with Him. That offer requires accepting Jesus Christ His Son as their Lord. He’s the only one who paid the price for their sin and who offers them His own righteousness to make them worthy to live with the Creator forever. But most of them don’t recognize Him at all.
As believers in Jesus Christ, then, our highest calling and our greatest undertaking is to be Jesus to every person we connect with — whether in the marketplace, the street, the factory, the business office, or the halls of government. Wherever and whenever we have the opportunity, let us be diligent to place the highest value on people and their need to know and comprehend Jesus the Christ.
Life is challenging even in the best of times. But sometimes we need to stop everything and take stock of just what we are giving ourselves to as we travel through that life. Many people don’t realize that we all tend to give place to – or even collect – some objects, people, and experiences that do us more harm than good. Periodically, we need to take a good long look at those collections and do some house cleaning.
In fact, we need to throw out some things and walk away from them forever. Abandonment isn’t always a negative term. And if you’ve been feeling a little bound up, a little negative, a little pressed, stressed, and overwhelmed lately, I’d say it’s time to abandon some stuff.
Abandon your fears. Abandon your insecurities. Abandon your doubts. Abandon your past failures. Abandon the negative words others have spoken concerning your abilities or your future. Abandon the so-called ‘friends’ who do not draw from you your best and highest.
Life is too short to live it in fear, doubt, and the faulty judgments of other people. If you’re going to get anything out of this life, you’re going to have to put a lot into it. And you can’t do that if you’re constantly afraid or second-guessing because of past failures or someone else’s opinions.
Stand up and lay hold of this day in faith. God made you, so He loves you. And because He made you, He obviously has a plan for your whole life. Maybe you’ve never spent enough time with Him to find out about the plan. Or perhaps you’ve started living for Him, but you’ve gotten side-tracked or knocked down, and you’ve shifted your focus to the negatives in your life.
Well, today is the best time to turn your focus back to Him. Take His hand and let Him lead you where He wants to take you. Let Him show you His delightful plan for your life. Then get started – or re-started – carrying it out.
Abandon what is negative, dark, and destructive. Seize what is positive, light, and life-giving. Then go out there and LIVE!
It is absolutely pouring rain at my house. I mean sheets and sheets of hard rain, descending with purpose. But I’m not feeling the least bit sad about it. You see, my windows are open, and I can hear the rhythmic beat as the torrents hit the ground with resolution. It’s like a satisfying loud symphony, with all nature providing the orchestra. I can breathe in the unique fragrance that is a fusion of just mown grass and freshly washed air.
The flowering pear tree across the road is vying with the rain to be the center of attention. It’s pure white blossoms are startling as they stand out through the smoky gray curtain that’s obviously intent on maintaining center stage for now.
The force of the downpour at the very beginning stirred my soul and wakened me from what was about to become a mid-afternoon stupor. And now — ten minutes into the storm — the downpour has settled to a sure, steady pattern that sooths and relaxes me.
Two-thirds of the sky is heavy and gray, but to the southeast, I see a small patch of bright turquoise, just waiting for it’s chance to take over after the storm wears itself out. And wear out it will. No elements can keep up such an energetic production for a long period of time. Like all good things, it’s limited to a fragment of time. But its enough. In fact, its just exactly enough to allow us to enjoy it properly.
Deep breath — satisfying sigh — I’m happy in the moment. 🙂