Cucumbers and Sin

by Crystal Bowman

The cucumbers in the produce case were extra-large and only 89 cents each. The length and weight of each cucumber varied, but since it didn’t affect the price, I searched for the biggest one I could find. It’s not that I’m greedy or stingy, I just like a good deal. And the bigger the cucumber, the better the deal.

I always check my receipt when I return home to make sure all my groceries were bagged and loaded properly, and that nothing was left behind. It was then that I noticed the mistake. The cashier had entered my over-sized cucumber as a zucchini squash, which almost tripled the price. It was an honest mistake, but it made my good deal a not-so-good deal after all. Since I live within walking distance to the store, I decided to stop in the next day, so they could correct the error. They did.

This all made me think about our sins. Our society tends to label sin as not so bad, bad, and really bad. We believe a little white lie is not as bad as stealing or murder. The consequences, of course, are more severe for the “big” sins, but in God’s eyes, all sin is sin.  And whether our sins are small, medium, or extra-large, the price He paid for our sins is the same. Jesus suffered and died a criminal’s death on the cross. He paid for our sins—no matter the size— with his shed blood.

It almost doesn’t seem fair that a criminal receives the same forgiveness as the law-abiding citizen. But Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for all of the sin. Every single one. He’s about forgiving all who confess their sins and desire to become one of His followers. He paid the same price for the murderer’s sins as he did for mine.

Romans 3:23-24 (NIV) says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

It’s so easy to forget that, isn’t it? When we see the horrific acts of evil on the news and hear of school shootings and riots in the streets, we tend to forget that Jesus died for all people, not just the goody-two-shoes.

I live only 45 minutes from Parkland, Florida, where 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School died on Valentine’s Day 2018 at the hands of a lone shooter. I watched the news for hours, trying to process what was happening too close to home. The next day, when I went to my exercise class, it was the topic for discussion. While most people expressed their horror and sadness, one woman said to me, “I’m praying for the shooter. He needs Jesus too.”

Gulp! I swallowed hard with conviction and had to admit that the thought of praying for him never crossed my mind. But she was right. He needs Jesus too. We all need Jesus.

Romans 6:23 (NIV) says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We deserve to be put to death for our sins, but Jesus took the death penalty for us. Salvation is free to us through faith in Jesus, because He paid the price—the same price—for all. I pray that I will always remember I am no better than anyone else, and that Jesus loves us all the same. This is the Gospel message we need to share with our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, neighbors—and people at the grocery store.

And the next time I’m at there and buy an over-sized cucumber, I’ll remember to tell the clerk it’s not a zucchini.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”                                                                                                                                                 Isaiah 1:18 NIV

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Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for KidsM is for Mangerand Does God Take Naps? She is a mentor for MOPS and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is a contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. Her latest release, co-authored with her daughter-in-law, is Mothers in Waiting, Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms. She lives in both Florida and Michigan (wherever the weather is best), and travels often to get hugs from her grandchildren.

Join the conversation: Who are the people that you forget to pray for?

Souls as Clean as Snow

by Debb Hackett @Debb_Hackett

It’s that time of year. For anyone living in the northern two-thirds of the United States, the weather seems to lurch from near-Armageddon amounts of snow or ice, and frostbite causing temperatures, or beautiful spring-like warmth that offers a welcome respite from the full-on days of winter.

We are a family of skiers. Every Saturday sees us up at 5 a.m. to get to our favorite resort in time to make “first tracks” and be the ones at the front of the line when the lifts open. During a recent trip, conditions were particularly beautiful. The trail-groomers and snow makers had done an outstanding job and the slopes were adorned with fresh powder. As my skis swished down the mountain, I was struck by how like God’s grace a ski trail is.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
 they shall be as white as snow; (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)

First thing in the morning, the surface of the trails is white and smooth, perfect for skiing. But as the skiers come, the snow gets chopped up and marked. Sometimes there are deep ruts or slash marks, and over time, moguls or bumps form. By the end of the day the snow can be dirty with mud, and pine needles or twigs mixed in. Isn’t that a little like us? We wake up to a day with no errors… yet. Then there’s a poor thought, maybe a sharp word or some other type of mistake and we are off. Sin makes it’s “first tracks.”

We go through the day with all the challenges life throws at us and we can find our closeness to Jesus slashed, or perhaps our faith hit some bumps. By the end of the day we might well be a little less than pristine, feeling the weight of our sin.

But even as I skied and contemplated this, the Lord was quick to reassure me…

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17, NIV)

It doesn’t matter how dirty our snow gets, we know the ultimate groomer. Unlike a ski slope, Jesus doesn’t bury the mess in more snow so it’s hidden. He cleanses us from it and leaves us forever washed white.

Be reassured today that there’s no sin so great or mistake so big that Jesus can’t forgive it or redeem it. That’s just how much He loves you.

Take a minute to ask for that love and grace work in you and shine through you today.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)

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Deb HackettAbout the author: Writer, broadcaster and speaker Debb Hackett  has been a radio journalist for more than twenty years. Married to a test pilot, Debb writes for military wives and lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and children. She’s having lots of fun working on an inspirational contemporary romance series. When she’s not writing, Debb can be found leading worship, playing bass, or skiing. Also, if you can swing by her house while she’s making scones, that would be a win. She blogs at: http://debbhackett.com

Join the conversation: How has God’s grace impacted your life?

Between Some Math and a Stuck Place

by Rhonda Rhea

When I was in junior high, anytime I felt like I needed a good cry, I’d just ask my dad to help me with my math.

I’d like to say something about the “sums of the fathers” right here, but any way you pun it, it was actually all me. Even in high school, I remember going up to my algebra teacher’s desk saying, “Mr. Showalter, I’m stuck on number 5.” At which point he would do the problem for me with a smile. Mind you, I was also stuck on numbers one through four, but I didn’t want to overwhelm the man.

From early on, I understood that there was a reason they were called math problems. The stages of grief over math ineptitude went something like this:  1) Denial. 2) Trying to bargain—but let’s face it, bargaining can require math, so… 4) Realizing there was probably a missing step. What number are we on again? and 7) I really want a sandwich.

There was always something I would rather do than math problems. And those somethings were big-time distractions. I wish I’d thought to call them “weapons of math disruption” but I was probably too distracted. Sometimes I had a choice between picking up that math book and finding myself stuck on number 5, or instead…sandwich.

Ever feel a little stuck? Sometimes it’s about studying a problem long enough to decipher what to do next. It seems like it’s even more often that we’re stuck because we know what we’re supposed to do next, but we’ve lost count and allowed someone or something to move us in the opposite direction. Stuck.

God’s chosen people have a recorded history of more than a few instances of that “stuck-ness.” Many of their rock-and-a-hard-place kinds of experiences were a result of not being obedient to what the Lord had commanded them to do. One little distraction, then one little compromise that turned into another, that turned into another, and—well, you get the math. One compromise after another turns into…stuck.

Compromise is trading God’s will for us for something that our flesh wants instead. Our sin nature often loves to adjust the equation, trying to force God’s plan to fit our own selfish desires. Talk about not adding up. It’s just plain sin.

Our call is to obey Him. When we choose to follow distractions of compromise, we’re denying His grace. Paul said, “For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.” Titus 2:11-14 (HCSB).

How can a list of instructions like this come from God’s grace? Grace is undeserved favor—there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love and salvation. So why all the directives in how we should walk with Him?

They are given to us to keep us on a healthy path, focused on the author of our salvation. The same grace that saved us? It’s that very grace that trains us to say no to compromise. No to sin. Yes to cleansing. Yes to good works. Choosing to live in light of God’s precious gift of grace.

Training in refusing to compromise is an integral part of living well (even though “integral” sounds a little “math-y!”)

Maybe this is all a good reminder that the infinite God who created numbers and who fits them together in all kinds of creative ways uses math to show us Himself. Even me.

And I can honestly say that I use math all the time as a writer. For material.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:13b-14 (NASB)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant on the publishing team of Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Rhonda’s book, Fix HER Upper: Hope and Laughter Through a God-Renovated Life,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt “stuck”? How did you find your way out?