Surprise Party

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7 NIV

When I was in grade school, I always wanted to have a real birthday party – you know, when you invite the whole class at school. Every year when I asked, though, my mother’s answer was always the same: “No.” Maybe the class size of nearly fifty had something to do with it.

“Please, Mom,” I’d plead. “Everyone else has one. Why do I always have to be different?”

No amount of begging, whining, or pouting, however, changed her mind. Her lopsided cakes were for family only.

One year, though, I was determined to have the kind of party I wanted, in spite of my mother’s usual “no.” So I invited all the kids in my third grade class to come to my house on Saturday, November 5, for my birthday party. My mother, of course, knew nothing about it.

I bowled in a youth bowling league on Saturday mornings, and when I left the house that day, I still hadn’t told my mother about the party. The walk home after bowling was the longest walk I ever took in my life! I trudged the eight blocks home in the cold, damp November wind, thinking of how much trouble I was going to be in once the kids started showing up at my door.

Not only was I going to be in the doghouse at home, but I’d be the laughing stock of the whole school once word got out about the party with a lopsided cake, and not enough ice cream and pop. Don’t even mention games. That was not my mother’s forte.

When I stepped into the dining room at few minutes before two – the time I told everyone to come – I gasped in surprise. There in the middle of the table, set for a party, was a big, decorated birthday cake!

“How did you find out?” I blurted to my mother.

“Vivian’s mother called to ask me what time your party started,” she said.

Thank you, Mrs. Bludis, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief.

“We’ll talk about this after the party,” my mother said quietly as someone knocked. “Go answer the door.”

For the next three hours, I tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d probably be grounded for the rest of my life. When the last guest left, I hurried to help clean up, grateful to my mom for helping me save face and hoping my initiative would lessen my punishment.

“What would you have done if Mrs. Bludis hadn’t called?” my mother asked me after we were done.

I shrugged.

“I didn’t understand how important this was to you. I’m sorry,” Mom said, “but I hope you realize you were wrong to go behind my back.”

I nodded.

As it turned out, my only punishment was three agonizing hours imagining what my just desserts would be when I could have been enjoying my birthday party.

My mother taught me an important lesson in mercy that day. While it isn’t easy to forgive someone who has done something wrong, showing undeserved kindness blesses both the giver and the receiver, and brings healing to broken relationships.

I deserved justice. Instead I received a birthday present I never forgot.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thank you, God, that Your mercies are new every morning. I sure need them everyday. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.

The Deathbed Perspective: Part 1 Fight the Good Fight

Read and reflect on 2 Timothy 4:6–8.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

Call me crazy, but I tend to make important life decisions from what I call “the deathbed perspective.” I imagine myself on my deathbed, looking back on my life. At the end of my earthly sojourn, would I regret this decision or rejoice I chose to go that route?

Of course, we know when faced with a decision, we can always ask God for wisdom, and He’ll oblige (James 1:5). Perhaps this is God’s way of giving me that wisdom, because from the deathbed perspective, my priorities are clear, and I know the way I should take. So far, I’ve never regretted a decision made from the deathbed perspective.

In his second letter to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul also had a deathbed perspective—and it truly was his deathbed. He was in his last days on earth—imprisoned in a cold dungeon, chained like a common criminal, alone, as he awaited his martyrdom.

Here he penned the words I told my husband I wanted on my tombstone: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

But those aren’t just words to die by—they’re words to live by.

This week we’re going to look at the first part of that verse: I have fought the good fight.

This tells me the Christian life is a battleground not a playground. The life of faith is a fight because faith doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t grow easily.

As believers we are in a war with God’s infernal enemy, and we do battle daily in three arenas of warfare: the world, the flesh, and the devil (yes, he does exist).

The world is the spirit of the age, the anti-Christ attitude, the realm of the God’s enemy. Paul accurately described the spirit of the age in his letter to Timothy (read 2 Timothy 3:1–5).

The second arena is the flesh—our human, or carnal, nature, prone to sin, which is constantly at war with our spiritual nature (John 3:3; Romans 7 & 8; 1 Corinthians 2:6–14). Just look at the temptations to sin you face daily. This war will rage until our spirits are freed from our earthly bodies. 

The third arena is the devil. When you receive Jesus as your Savior, you immediately switch sides in a war that goes back to Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven (Isaiah 14:12–15; Ezekiel 28:11–19; Luke 10:18). The enemy has been prowling around ever since, seeking the destruction of believers (1 Peter 5:8).

But we are not left without weapons.

First, put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10–18). After all, why would the Word advise us to put on our armor if we weren’t to do battle?

Second, pray. A praying Christian terrifies the enemy.

Third, know God’s Word. It is your sword (Ephesians 6:17). Learn to use it and use it often and well.

Fourth, resist. The Word tells us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).

Fifth, remember that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world”(1 John 4:4).

Finally, remember the war is already won. It was won when the Son of God died in your place on a Roman cross then burst out of a sealed tomb three days later. Don’t believe me? Read Revelation.

I know, there are times you feel anything but a victor. You feel beaten, weak, small, forgotten, and alone.

But you’re not. Remember these verses:

When you feel beaten: You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).

When you feel weak: His grace is all you need (2 Corinthians 12:9). Christ living in you gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).

When you feel small: You are loved by the God who created the universe (Psalm 36:5). You are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). You are engraved on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). You are precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4).

When you feel forgotten and alone: He will never forget you (Isaiah 49:15). He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). His Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Onward and upward, soldier. Keep fighting the good fight.

Remind me, Father God, I’m in this world not to frolic but to fight the good fight of faith. Help me to use my weapons often and well. Amen.

NOTE: Next week, we’ll look at the second part of that verse: “I have finished the race.”

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.