Tag Archives: Christ

“This is amazing grace”

Day 6 – Shackles: The Playlist

Laying down your life for a friend. Taking the place of someone who is condemned.

Those are actions from the heart of Christ, and the kind of love that Christians are called to display. In “Shackles,” I presented those concepts in the story of Faustus, the man that I imagined as the jailer who interacted with Paul and Silas from Acts 16. But earlier in the story, Faustus offered to take the place of his slave – his best friend – rather than allow a gross miscarriage of justice. I’m offering an excerpt from that scene below.

The redeeming story of “Shackles” is that Christ offered his life as payment to satisfy the debt of all who call on his name – confessing with our mouth, believing in our hearts.

This is amazing grace.

FROM “SHACKLES” – CHAPTER 22 – MIDNIGHT RUN

Faustus stepped again toward Lucianus. Two more slaves – Lucianus’s jail hands – stepped in front of Faustus.

“My slave did not take these gods,” Faustus insisted. “And you know it. You had them stolen, you had …”\

“Now, wait a moment,” Lucianus said. He stood. “I would not involve myself in such a thing, because just touching those things – those gods – can get a man’s hands chopped off.”

“You are an evil man,” Faustus replied. “Pure evil.”

“You are mistaken, Faustus,” Lucianus said. “I am trying to make things right, and what I see here is your best slave returning idols he had stolen, because he lives with you, and you certainly told him to just undo his deed and all would be forgotten.”

“I’m not listening to this. Let’s go Lutalo,” Faustus ordered.

“Well, not until there’s appropriate payment for this crime, Faustus,” Lucianus added. “I insist, and you being an upstanding man – and so well-respected by Emperor himself – have to appreciate that.”

“These aren’t your idols to protect and it’s not your justice to give,” Faustus replied. “We’re leaving.”

“Oh, but I’m afraid not, Faustus, because, you see …” He directed Pinkus to bring Lutalo to stand next to Faustus. “By about now, if you set others about the task of looking for more ill-gotten gods at your house, they will have found two statues that came from …”

“My house.”

Faustus began to take off his tunic. “I’m going to end you right here!” he shouted.

Lucianus motioned for another slave to bring him something, and the slave placed a scabbard in his hands. Lucianus stepped toward Faustus, carefully held the scabbard by the blade, and offered the handle to Faustus.

“You take this now. Go ahead, Faustus, you’ve wanted to do this for some time, and thrust it into my gut.”

Faustus refused to take the scabbard.

“So you will not end me here,” Lucianus said. “I knew you wouldn’t. You knew you wouldn’t. These gods know you wouldn’t.” He sliced at the air. “So here’s the price I exact. Bring me Lutalo.”

Faustus pushed his way around the other slaves and stepped in front of Lutalo.

“You will take my life, not his.”

“Take your life? Take HIS life?” Lucianus laughed. “I’m only going to lop of one of his hands. Now move aside.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Faustus snarled. He grabbed the handle of the scabbard and wrested it away from Lucianus. Lucianus told the slaves holding Lutalo to let him go.

“You see, I was going to have them bring him over here, hold his arm on one of these stones, and ‘whack’” … Faustus threw up his arms. “But now you have the implement of justice.”

Faustus thrust the scabbard onto the marble surface. “There will be no retribution – no so-called justice – because my friend, my slave did nothing wrong.”

“No, Faustus, there will be justice, because I have six slaves who will tell the magistrates that they saw your slave take these idols.” Lucianus walked smugly back and forth between Faustus and Lutalo. “And there are others – not slaves, but the kind of witnesses that magistrates believe – who will testify the same thing. So, yes, there will be payment and retribution.”

Lucianus picked up the scabbard. He handed it to Faustus. “Here. Kill your slave.”

“If anyone dies it will be me,” Faustus argued. “My life. Not his.”

Lucianus forced himself to laugh.

“What a noble gesture – a man laying down his life for a slave … for,” Lucianus paused, then spun and turned toward Lutalo. “For his friend.”

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Filed under Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month, Shackles

The Wedding Countdown: 2 days away

Line-in-Sand_3

Five, four, three, two …

Tomorrow will be one: One day until our youngest princess marries her prince. Natasha Jackson and Kory Myrick will tie the knot at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Today was a break-neck busy, dizzying sort of day. As Kelly and Natasha carefully applied swirls of icing to 124 cupcakes, I kept watch over three pork butts on the grill. I’m a charcoal-only guy, sworn to uphold the fine art of grilling by controlling the heat of a briquette – and the smoke of damp chunks of hickory. Once upon a time I thought that barbecuing was simply the act of putting a slab of meat on a grill over flames, with an occasional squirt of lighter fluid to keep the fire raging.

That’s what I now call “desecrating,” not barbecuing the meat. In fact, there’s nothing barbecue about my grilling these days. The sauce can go on the side after the morsels are properly grilled. I can’t even tell you how many years I snuffed out flavor with flame or thick sauce. Grilling is an art form that I seek to master.

A little while ago when I let the dog out I checked the grill – 8:30 p.m. – and the temperature gauge still read 175-degrees. That was exactly 12 hours after I put three pork butt roasts on the grill, flanked on both sides by white-hot briquettes, with a 9×12 drip pan under the meat – about 17 pounds worth of hog heaven. I checked periodically to make sure the temperature was between 225 and 275, turned the meat ever so gently when necessary, and kept the oak chips and chunks smoking after the first hour.

The smallest roast registered 170 degrees at the center just three hours later. The others came off the grill and 12:15 and 12:45, respectively. Given a good half hour for the juices to settle in but not too cool off to noticeably, those butts practically fell apart. The meat either pulled or shredded with ease, and I shared some burnt ends with Natasha as she iced cupcakes. Kelly got some samples of the interior goodness. She’s not a burnt ends fan and not a fan of the spices that gave the outer butt a nice kick: chili powder and cayenne pepper. My rub recipe, which was applied the day before, also includes a healthy amount of paprika (sweetness), salt, pepper, oregano and the primary ingredient: brown sugar.

The pulled pork, my grilled-finished mac and cheese (first time I’ve tried that) and other goodies will be the fare for Friday’s rehearsal dinner.

Tonight (I’m writing this Thursday) is my final entry for “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Tomorrow’s, on wedding eve, I’ll give some pointers on what to do when you’ve wrecked your marriage.

Yeah. I have some experience. (Guys, I dare you to tell me you don’t).

And tonight, we’re talking about sex. And I’m talking to the guys.

Wrecking ball No. 15 – Believe that sexual purity and faithfulness to your wife is a line in the sand, and as long you don’t cross it, you’re pure.

See that line? You can get right up to it – inch your way closer, closer and right there, just not OVER the line – and you haven’t strayed from your vows. That’s the wrecking ball that will eventually knock you over the line if you keep standing there, toying with your thoughts, fantasies, the thrill of a pursuit or chase that, hey, is just a friendly sort of thing and, besides, all guys do that.

All guys do that: hardly needing to be lured or enticed to the line because they live right next to it. If you’re rationalizing the fantasies that play out in your head, you’re likely connected to others who also have their toes about a millimeter from that purity line. Just stay right there and I promise – You. Will. Wreck. Your. Marriage.

Here’s the thing about that line: It allows for “look but don’t touch,” to flirt and entice without consequences. But, ultimately, it allows for different options. When you’re comfortable enough toeing the line, any marital crisis, unaffectionate moment or indifference from your wife, or the desire to just be “a really good friend” to another woman in a time of need are life circumstances that lead to easy justification for crossing the line.
Every man needs to read “Every Man’s Battle,” subtitled, “Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time.”

See, here’s the deal: What you think you’ll gain in pleasure, approval, acceptance, confidence – whatever – by testing and eventually crossing that imaginary purity line amounts to a grain of sand compared to the pleasure, affirmation, dignity and strength of being faithful, from seeing the sexual connection of marriage as a body, mind, soul and spirit intimacy that comes from honoring and cherishing your wife.

I’m trying to avoid being preachy, but I need to say that my faith and value system is based on the belief that it’s up to each man to redeem manhood. And every man fights this battle. To the guy who believes that monogamy is old-fashioned and unachievable, my advice is to get far away from the woman who loves you, because you’re setting her up for unspeakable pain. Do her a favor and get out of her life now.

Tough words? No, the tough words come from the empty, tear-drained eyes that accompany the question, “How could you?”

So where is a man supposed to draw the purity line?

Nowhere. There isn’t a line that you can see, that if you simply stay on this side of it, you’re okay. Your wife’s hand, your wife’s heart, your wife’s trust and honor are your anchor. (Spiritually speaking, for us Christians the anchor is Jesus Christ, and the words of Paul the Apostle: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” There’s no line there, no other options. And it means battling to the death for your beloved princess. Not up for that? You’re not ready for marriage).

This sort of faithfulness and purity is possible, especially if you lock arms and hearts with other men who refuse to draw that line. And you’d better find those allies and partners-in-arms in every season of life. Our biological and sexual “wiring” is one thing. Our sexually-charged, anything-goes culture is out to wreck you: your marriage, your dignity, your manhood – your life.

Guys, no one has suggested this is easy. That’s why it’s called a battle. But every warrior headed for or engaged in battle asks himself, “Is this cause worth it?”

Is your wife worth it? Come on, ask yourself that question.

If you can see that line in the sand, you’re not saying, “Maybe not.” You’ve already said, “No.” You’ve answered that question long before you stepped across that line.

Playlist

Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade.” Please take five minutes to see this powerful music video.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, Wedding countdown

Kianna: ‘Follow your heart’

GUEST POST by Natasha Jackson

My sister, Kishia, just had her baby on Wednesday. It was an INCREDIBLE day. Here’s my letter to the sweet little princess … my precious niece. (Letter originally appeared on my blog, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”)

Kianna,
 
If anyone in the family could describe me in one word, they’d probably say I’m a “butterfly.” I’m not known for staying in one place for too long. I go where the wind goes. And what is that wind? That’s the Lord, hopefully, that I’m following! I feel like about 98 percent of the time my decisions are based on God’s leading. I gotta leave some room for error. I’m human.

But my personality, too, is very much of a butterfly. I love going from place to place to learn new things, and teach people things. My goal is to show the love of Christ to anyone God puts in my path. Sometimes, I don’t do the best job of that ‑ but I sure do try. Sometimes I miss it, even though I don’t mean to.
 
With that being said, I haven’t been known to be around the family as much as most. Generally when family get-together’s happen, I’m off on a mission trip or women’s retreat that I’m either leading or attending. I haven’t given much attention over the past few years to family. Part of that is because I live further away than any of the others in our family. But I’ve decided over the past year or so to not let the miles be an excuse anymore.
 
Just two months ago, your Great-Great-Grandma Nola went to go be with Jesus. We all wanted so much for you to meet her. But I’m sure that you two already knew each other. If people have guardian angels, I’m sure that she is yours. Just like all of us, she loved you so much before you were born. Even when she couldn’t remember anything because she was so sick, she remembered you.

The pain of Granny Nola leaving this world is still very fresh. But, Kianna, you have helped ease that pain. When I saw your face just moments after you were born, something in my heart changed. As I held you, I wanted nothing more than to make you smile. I can’t wait to get to know you.
 
So this is my promise to you, Sweet Princess: I will be there for you. I have had some great examples as to how to be a really good aunt. And I plan on even surpassing those examples! I don’t know where the wind is going to blow me next. I don’t know what God has in store for me in my next season of life. I might be miles away from you, but I won’t let that keep me from you. And I promise to be there for your mommy and daddy, too. I haven’t done the best job at that either. But that’s going to change.
 
You are already the sweetest little girl. I can’t wait to see how you change the world ‑ because you’ll change it just by being yourself! Don’t try to be anyone else, because you are incredible. I can tell you from many, many examples and stories in my own life that you should feel free to follow your dreams. No dreams are silly. So go with it.

Follow your heart.

I can’t wait to see what you teach all of us. And I can’t wait to tell you about the adventures I’ve had in my life.
 
You are truly the most beautiful little girl that I have ever seen. And I can’t wait to see you grow into a stunning little lady!

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Filed under Family, Guest Blog, Kianna Allene Brown