The Cross Holds The Answer

Written by David DiCrescenzo on . Posted in FAITH

Did you ever hear something that just couldn’t be unheard or erased from your thought process for the rest of the day…?!  That happened to me the other day and I wanted to share the essence of that story because I think so many miss the really big point made by it.  Given that we are celebrating the most important event on the Christian Calendar, I felt it very important to bring to light.

Here is the essence of the story, which with some slight alterations, has probably played out countless times in many different settings for the past 2000 years.  A little girl is enrolled in a school run by Nuns, remember them…?!  Now I don’t know what this little girl, now a grown woman was doing beyond being a normal little girl, but the Nun in question looked at her, rather sternly I’ll bet, and said “…you’ll never be good enough to get into Heaven.”

However true, what a harsh, potentially life altering thing to say to any child.  Yes, I said “however true” because while the Nun’s delivery was straight out of any child’s nightmares, it was indeed a very accurate statement.  Not just accurate for this poor child who did have a very rough go of things for many years thereafter until she learned the truth; it is accurate for me and you, and for everyone we know or don’t know.  That is to say that with One exception, no one, not one person has ever been “good enough to get into Heaven.”  It just isn’t possible..!

That little snippet of memory in that little girl’s life, or anyone’s life which causes so much anguish and so many poor decisions by so many people, is one that is answered so simply at the foot of the Cross.

That message, which has been so over complicated and corrupted by so many men for so many different reasons over the centuries boils down to this, “…we are never going to be good enough to get into Heaven” of our own accord.  We are sinners and the wages of sin is death.  

There is however good news, very good news indeed.  Simply put, we lost our fellowship way back at the beginning when original sin took place and we lost fellowship with God because of that sin.  Just like any parent, He didn’t stop loving us because we did something wrong, but there were consequences; major consequences in fact.  For millennia after “the fall,” the faithful were required to temporarily atone for their sins via the use of a sacrificial system, but those sacrifices had to be done over and over again.

And that is where Jesus entered the picture and offered Himself as the once and for all permanent sacrifice.  He took every sin ever to be committed and bore the burden and paid the price in full for all who would believe.  He conquered death and is still alive today waiting to welcome everyone who accepts His free gift of Salvation.

And that is why when that Nun said, “…you’ll never be good enough to get into Heaven,” she was right.  All she neglected to do was add that because of the sacrifice of our Lord, you can absolutely get into Heaven by putting your faith in Him.

Such a simple message; too simple for some I suppose, but never the less, there it is.  

So if you’ve ever wondered if you can enter Heaven after you breathe your last, if there is a way, the answer is yes.  It doesn’t matter how bad or unforgivable you may think you are, all you need to do is recognize that He bore your sin and paid the price for that sin on that Cross, and in your own words simply tell Him that you believe, ask Him to forgive you, and invite Him into your life.  He will do the rest.

He is Risen, He is Risen indeed.  Hallelujah.  Happy Easter my friends.

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Lighting The World One Menu At A Time...

Written by Karen R. Vaughn on . Posted in FAITH

Publisher’s Note:  A dear friend posted this simple but powerful memory and thought.  It really convicted me because as much as I’d like to be that guy every time, I recognize that I’m not always “the light” for those around me.  I hope this reminds everyone of how the simplest of things can mean so much. 

Karen Vaughn:  As my Grandma Hazel aged she used to get so frustrated in restaurants as she struggled to read the menu, "Why is it SO dark in here?!  What's so terrible about light?!"  Being honest here, I'd usually roll my eyes (privately, of course) and think to myself, “What is she talking about?  The lighting is perfectly fine.”

Well...NOW I get it…!  I often find myself grabbing my cell phone and flipping on the dang flashlight so I can read the menu, grumbling under my breath about the lack of light; and every time I do, I remember my impatience with Grandma and feel a little bit ashamed.

These memories hit me this morning as I was pondering how many times the Bible tells us to be...light.

So often I think of that phrase, “be light,” like some aura we're supposed to carry around, sort of a mystical form of consciousness that's always emitting some character trait that drives others to want to know more about God and about Christ.

But maybe it's simpler than that.  When you're trying to pick out what you want for dinner you have lots of choices; choices you can't really make if you can't see the menu well.  But if I'm sitting beside you, seeing you struggle, the least I can do is grab my cellphone and flip on the flashlight.  I can shine light on those choices because I have the tool to do so.

As believers, we have the tools to shine light into the darkest choices people are dealing with.  If we step up and utilize that tool, we may keep them from choosing the salad that has "anchovies" hidden in the text, (BTW - that happened to me not long ago because I couldn't freaking see the menu!).  

Be the light, that's all.  Don't let a sister order up a salad with dead fish on top.

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A Prayer For President Trump And America...

Written by David DiCrescenzo on . Posted in FAITH

Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t asked to offer an invocation during the inauguration.  I gave it a lot of thought and decided to completely overlook the snub and share with my readers what my invocation might have looked and sounded like.  

Before I do, I have to say that I am very pleased to learn that Vice President Elect Mike Pence will have his Bible open to a passage that is exactly what I pray about today and discuss as often as possible.  His Bible will be turned to 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  

On that wonderful note, I offer this simple prayer for President Trump, his family, his administration and America.

Father in Heaven, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we gather as a nation at a momentous crossroads in our history.  Over the past several decades, we have turned our backs on You; slowly at first, but very steadily and we have gotten to a point through various legislation and court rulings where we no longer even remotely resemble what our Founders put in place when they designed this country based upon the principles and blueprint found in Your Word. 

Dear God, We the People, Your children, have pleaded with You around the country; we have met in small and large groups, filled church buildings and synagogues, held vigils, and we have lifted our combined voices to You in prayer and supplication.  Father, our prayers had the common themes of asking for new leadership that would begin the process of turning us back around into a nation that honors and worships You; we’ve asked You to give us men and women who would begin to reverse our moral decline and reverse the decision which has allowed the unspeakable destruction of millions of Your children via the curse of abortion, and so much more.

As You have done so many times before for Your people, You have heard our earnest pleas, and You have answered by giving us a leader who shares many of our values.  Father, as this man, Mr. Donald Trump begins the enormous task ahead, we ask that You grant him good advisors, a supportive family, a legislative body that helps him, and grant him the discernment, wisdom, and courage to act in a way that honors You.

Father, he has powerful detractors and enemies within and without and they will do everything they can to thwart his restoring efforts; show Your Glory by making them ineffective against him and our allies.  

As he begins his Presidency, we ask that You cover him and his family with a cloak of protection, keep him strong and healthy.

Now that You have granted us this reprieve and opportunity to return to You, we ask that You soften the hearts of those who resist your beckoning, that Your Harvest of souls would begin in great numbers and this nation would witness its greatest revival and national repentance.

Dear God, You don’t need us, but You love us more than our simple minds can ever conceive, and You have shown that in so many ways; the greatest of which was sending Your only Son to take the penalty of our sin on that Cross.  Father we need You, and we ask that You bless us once again as You have in the past, as we must bless You again.

We thank You humbly for Your provision and we just ask again that You protect this man and these United States of America.

Father, I recognize that not everyone hearing these words shares faith in You and Your Son, however I ask that You would hear this prayer offered by Your humble servant and lifted up to You in the matchless and mighty name of Your Son, Jesus the Christ.  

And all of God’s children said…

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And so this is Christmas...

Written by David DiCrescenzo on . Posted in FAITH

We see less and less of the things we used to see around Christmas these days.  When I was a kid growing up on the North Shore of Boston, we didn’t even much think about it until a while after Thanksgiving.  There was no such thing as 'Black Friday,’ and the shopping frenzy didn’t really kick in until about the last two weeks before; however, once the season did kick into gear, it was amazing.

Everywhere one looked, there was a Christmas theme.  Every town square had a 'Manger Scene.’ Some of them were 'live,’ some not, and no one complained about anyone being offended. The ACLU didn’t raise a stink about public funds being used for street decorations, and no one was complaining.  School kids made all sorts of Christmas stuff in public school classes across the country.  There was even a place, not far from where we lived, called the Lynn Fells Parkway; people came from many miles away just to drive around this affluent neighborhood to see the Christmas lights display.  Ask anyone you may know who lived anywhere near Boston at the time, and they’ll know about that.  I haven’t been near there in decades; however I would guess that neighborhood probably no longer does that anymore.

Then of course, there was Christmas Eve.  I imagine everyone has a different memories; some very happy, some very sad.  I think a lot of people were trying to grasp the temporary emotion and sentiment found in some of the old classic movies.  Everyone remembers the redemptive tales of Mr. Scrooge and Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol,” or the evening journey of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Speaking of those, I don’t know about “A Christmas Carol,” however you won’t be seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life” anymore, at least not 24/7 like we used to this time of year.  Copyrights y’know.

Anyway, putting all of that nostalgia aside, the season has been so commercialized and diluted with Santa Claus, flying reindeer, dancing elves, and Macy’s parades, we’ve lost focus along the way.  Not to mention the many that would have us do away with Christmas altogether.

Like most Christians, I understand that there is no real Biblical teaching which demands we celebrate the birth of our Savior; the reason He came and His death and resurrection are the most important.  I know of some groups and individuals that incessantly harp on the pagan roots of the celebration and consider it less than Christian.  They’re entitled to their opinion.

However, this is my take and that of most of my brothers and sisters in the faith for joyously celebrating His birth.  Just as most of us honor any other friend or loved one and commemorate their birth every year, we honor the day set aside to celebrate His earthly birth; that time when the Eternal Creator of the Heavens and Earth humbled Himself to dwell among His children and prepare Himself as the only sacrifice worthy to Him.  He didn’t have to, we didn’t and don’t deserve it; however, He loves us so much that He allowed Himself to take human form, to become one of us, and ultimately be sacrificed on that Roman Cross 2000 years ago.  He was sinless and that was the only acceptable sacrifice that could be offered once and for all to cover our sin nature.  We celebrate His death and resurrection during the time of Passover and what we now refer to as Easter.

There’s a small catch though.  While everyone is welcome to receive His free and undeserved gift of Grace, it is only bestowed upon those who recognize it for what it is and accept it on this side of Eternity.  His life and death on that Cross was His knock on the door to our hearts to deliver the simple message of His Salvation.

So as we begin this final week leading up to our celebration and gift giving, the question always remains, will you hear His gentle knocking…?  Will you open the door to your heart and welcome Him in and accept His free gift of everlasting life…?  The choice is yours; He is knocking on your door today and always.

My hope and prayer is that you will look deep inside, hear His voice, and welcome Him.  

In that hope, I bid you a joyous and very Merry Christmas.  Good night my friends, rest well in the knowledge that your Heavenly Father loves you and wants very much to have a relationship with you.   

 

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America....the writing is on the wall

Written by David DiCrescenzo on . Posted in FAITH

I imagine that most people have heard this term, "I can read the writing on the wall" or a variation at one time or another and understand that in our modern culture it distills down to the ability to recognize and understand a given situation; as you’ll see; it certainly applies to the state of America and the West.  

What a lot of people probably don’t realize is the origin of it.  The term comes from the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament of the Bible.  Before I describe the scene that was taking place, I’ll offer a little background.

Daniel, a Jew, was a very well-known and well respected man in Babylon, and had been for decades since the time of King Nebuchadnezzar.  If you’re familiar with the Book of Daniel, you’ll remember that in chapter two, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and wanted it interpreted; he also wanted the interpreter to tell about the dream.  None of his wise men or mystics, and no one in his court had a clue; however Daniel did and was able to not only tell him exactly what he’d dreamed, he told him what it meant. Everything Daniel said about the dream was true, and everything he said would happen to the king did in fact come to pass.  To make a long story short, that is how Daniel earned his respect and position in Babylon. Daniel’s God given ability is also why King Nebuchadnezzar came to believe in God in a big way. 

Now that I’ve laid that brief ground work on Daniel, we can visit the scene in Chapter five that I mentioned above. Nebuchadnezzar had long since passed away, however the story of what had happened to him and the role Daniel played was the stuff of legend in Babylon; however the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, by the name of name of Belshazzar, like many of our leaders, was very full of himself and wasn’t real interested in any of that history and pretty much lived a lot like we in America do; and he threw a really big party to boast his and Babylon’s 'invincibility.’

In the meantime, similar to the current state of America and the West as a whole via our enemies, Babylon had been under a long term and growing siege from the Medes and Persians and the city was completely surrounded. Unlike us, Babylon had very high and wide walls so there was no chance for any invader to scale them; however there was an ‘Achilles Heel’ to the city.  Back to that in a moment to tie it all together.

The only real difference between ancient Babylon and America and the West is our advanced technologies.  They had the same sort of corrupt politicians, bankers, rebellious children, and all the rest.  Just like America has turned away from our founding principles, they also, after the time of Nebuchadnezzar, had fallen away from the course he set them on; had returned to their wicked ways, and just like us, had begun worshipping false idols.  Many of their idols were the same as ours; money, possessions, pride, status, sexual immorality, however they also had some made of wood, stone, iron, gold, and the like.  The bottom line is, like us, they worshipped anything and everything except God.

Back to the big party; so the city is surrounded, the leaders are ineffective, and the people are worried…sound familiar?  In the middle of the party, Belshazzar decided to make a mockery of all the captured idols from conquered nations; however since the Jews didn’t have any idols, he decided that the gold and silver cups the Jews had used in ceremonies would suffice, and he decided to drink from them and have others do the same.

And that is when as we would say, everything hit the fan.  To the horror and amazement of everyone in attendance, something very other worldly happened for all eyes to see; some very 'creepy’ fingers appeared and started writing a brief message on the wall in a language that no one understood; that is except Daniel who was called upon to see if he could once again interpret something.  And he did in fact interpret the writing on the wall.  It told of the end of Belshazzar’s reign and that he would perish that very night, which he did.

Remember those Medes and Persians that were besieging the city and that "Achilles Heel?”  Well, they knew that the Euphrates River flowed right through the middle of the city under those “very high and wide” walls, so they dammed the river several miles upstream and waited for the water level to lower under the walls, and it just so happened that the level was low enough right about the time that Daniel read the writing on the wall, that they were able to simply march in and take the city.

By now, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking "so what?”

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