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GRACE, FORGIVENESS, AND ENCOURAGEMENT

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I never know when I set down at the computer what I am going to write about. Even if I have an idea in my mind, it will sometimes change as the post evolves. But I have had this subject on my mind for a few weeks, so I guess I will forge ahead.

I hated church as a child. There, I said it. We attended church every time the doors were opened, but I HATED it. I would fidget, squirm, look out the windows, and pass notes to my friends. I did everything but listen. None of that mattered, though, because every Sunday, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, we headed out the door. I attended a small church, there were probably only around 50 or so on a Sunday morning, and about half of those attended the night services. My grandmother only lived a little ways from the church, so we would go to her house after church for lunch. That part I did like!

I don’t know if it was just our church or our preacher, but it sure seemed like all I heard when I was growing up was about Hell, fire, and brimstone, not even a drop of water to quench your thirst. I know as an adult that all that is true, and I can understand the “scare you straight” approach to preaching. But I hated it! I can remember thinking, “how can God be so wonderful if He is making it so hard to be with Him”? All I could envision was a camel trying to go through the actual eye of a needle. That is impossible!!! How was I ever going to be able to make it to Heaven if that stupid camel had to go through the needle?

Matthew 19:24

24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

When we moved to Grundy, my children were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. I had not been attending church, and it was eating at me. I guess some of the teachings I had heard as a child took root. Thanks, Mom! I was brand new to the area, and I had no idea what church to attend. I got out the phone book and looked up churches. I found one that was just a couple miles away, so I drove by to see for sure where it was and what time the services were. I got the babies up and dressed that Sunday, and we headed off. I hate going to new places. I hate feeling uncomfortable and unsure. So, this was a huge step for me. Everybody was welcoming, and I actually saw a friend, so I felt more at ease.

Then came the preaching. Boy, was I in for a shock! There was no fire and brimstone. No eye of the needle, no vengeful God. Instead, there was Grace and Forgiveness. Instead, there was welcome and understanding. I left church feeling like I might actually have a chance instead of feeling like I was the only sinner in the place and everyone was looking at me. I felt like everyone in the building was a sinner, and the Lord welcomed all of us to Him. I couldn’t believe how wonderful and encouraging the church could be.

2 Peter 1:2

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Do we encourage others to come to the Lord? I was never vocal about my faith; I don’t like it when I feel someone is trying to ram something down my throat. I always subscribed to the philosophy that I want others to see Jesus shine through me. I know of several women I admire who fit that statement, so that is my goal. But I recently read about a gentleman who is now a preacher who was never invited to church until he was in his late 20s. He never knew about Christ or His teachings. How horrible would it have been if one person had not taken the time to invite him to church?

Think of your family and friends; think of the person at the grocery checkout; think of all the people you come in contact with who might not know about Jesus. It would be a shame if no one had EVER invited them to church.

So, today, think about inviting one person to come to church with you or to listen to an online sermon. Remember, fire and brimstone are real, but so are Grace and Forgiveness.

To God Goes The Glory!

Have a blessed day!

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