Grease Spots & Mustard Stains

by Andrew Soyars

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.
2006 Andrew C. Soyars All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-1-4303-0450-0

Table of Contents 1. Introduction 2. Dessert, Anyone? 3. Preparation 4. The Recipe 5. Grease Spots 6. Mustard Stains 7. God's Dessert 8. Judgment Day 9. Tasting Your Own Dessert

Dedicated to…. The glory of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, that all who believe will have eternal life.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17

“Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:39

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8,9

“…for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” Rom. 10:13

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” John 10:1

Jesus is The Gate.

Generally speaking, I’m not a very smart guy. I usually have more questions than I do answers, which is why this book was written. I figure that a lot of the questions I have, others may have too. God has been kind enough to reveal to me the truths you will find within these pages. My version of the truth and yours may differ, but if we at least have the same core truth we’re alright…the truth that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Christianity is a very simple thing that we humans tend to complicate, simply because it is too simple. We feel like we have to play a part in our salvation, which isn’t true. We are saved by one thing only… the grace of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s it. Period. It’s no wonder when you examine Christianity and the church why so many people are put off by it. Hypocrisy, tradition, arrogance, judgment, condemnation…they all run deep and they’re all aimed at those who fail to conform to a particular mode of thinking or behavior, namely whatever pattern of beliefs the members of a particular church may follow. The intention of this book is to offer a little help to those on either side of the proverbial fence…those searching for answers and those who already have ‘em all. After all, we’re all in this thing together, whether we care to admit it or not. These pages won’t get you into heaven but they may help you understand God’s love for you and the plan that He put into place before the world was even created to offer you eternal life. Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, they may offer you answers and direction, or they may help you become more tolerant of others…or, of course, they may give you reason to label me a heretic and form an angry mob to stone me, but please choose the latter only as a last resort…*big cheesy grin*. The title, “Grease Spots & Mustard Stains”, may seem totally unrelated to the topic, but only until you stop and give it a little thought. Remember from years ago, the little “greasy-spoon” diners? Before all the health-conscious stuff, when taste was what mattered instead of nutrition? The greasier the spoon, the better the food! And nothing goes with grease like mustard! The thing was, with all that grease and mustard flying around, some of it was bound to end up on the menu. Now, if you’ve ever been in a greasy-spoon diner, you know that sanitation is not a priority…and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way at all (that’s part of the charm and character of such places!). When the grease and mustard ended up on the menu, they usually stayed on the menu. There was just too much of it floating around in the air…you wiped it off and it was right back on there.

Gooooooooood stuff!!! Anyway, God’s menu is a lot like the ones in the ol’ greasyspoons. The difference is we humans are the ones bringing in the grease and the mustard and throwing it all over the place, and then we blame God when we can’t see what’s on the menu…after all, it is His diner! The thing is…it’s not His fault. We are the ones that bring in the grease and mustard. His menu is too simple for us to understand. We have to throw some stuff on it to make it look like our own menus. And that is where the problems begin…

1. Dessert, Anyone?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is grace? It’s the overwhelming, endless love that God has for us. It discriminates against no one. It can’t be bought or earned, and it is most definitely undeserved. It’s unconditional. It’s a gift (Eph. 2:4-8). A very precious gift from God to His children. To receive it, one has only to ask for it and accept it (Rev. 3:20). Please don’t misunderstand. You don’t have to ask God to love you. He loved each of us before the creation of the world and continues to do so today. However, you must ask for it and accept it as yours before you can receive the benefits and joy that it brings. Think about the last time you went out for dinner and ordered dessert after your meal. Your dessert existed before you ever pulled onto the parking lot. It may have come in frozen the week before, or it may have been baked from scratch that very morning, but it did exist before your arrival. Were your taste buds blessed by your dessert on the parking lot? How about while you were munching on your carrots? Of course not, but that dessert still existed. Notice, though, that it wasn’t until you asked for it and accepted it from the waitress that you were able to sink your teeth into it and receive enjoyment from it. So it is with God’s love. It’s already there. Ask for it…let Him know you want a bite. Then accept it…taste it…savor it…then slowly swallow. He’s never turned anyone away, and chances are good that you’re not so bad He’ll decide to start with you. Before we go any further, it’s important to know why you ordered dessert in the first place. It all comes down to one reason. After your meal, as delicious and filling as it may have been, you still weren’t satisfied. You wanted something more. Something besides meat and veggies because something was still missing. Dessert. Funny, but God is like dessert in many ways. As good as life sometimes seems, and as filling as it can be, it lacks something when taken by itself. It leaves you unsatisfied and hungry for something more. Something that, more times than not, you aren’t even aware of. Just as your waitress may suggest dessert after your meal, God’s Spirit is quietly and gently suggesting that you try a little of God. He knows better than we that humans need His dessert to go along with the meal of life. Without it, we can never be satisfied. And He never gets tired of offering it. Okay, so you’ve enjoyed your meal and you’re still not satisfied. What next? Dessert. But, how do you choose? You pick up the menu and you look at perfect pictures of pretty (and tempting) treats. Your mind tells your stomach how delicious they all look and your stomach agrees. Deep down, you know that there’s only one special dessert that can fill your craving, but which one? Each of us has favorites that we lean toward, but they all look so good! Which one is the right one to satisfy your craving? The waitress happens by, and you ask her to describe the ones that you might be interested in. With a big smile and twinkling eyes, she softly describes, in a gentle voice, one dessert after another, until you have so many choices your head is spinning. At the same time, that void in your gut and the tingling in your taste buds are watering up your mouth because they want something and they’re starting to want it now! Your mind is now telling your stomach, not just how good each dessert looks, but how good it sounds as well! The pressure is on! The problem is, they all look and sound so good, how do you

choose? You finally pick the one you think you want the most. Ever noticed how even after you’ve received and enjoyed your dessert, there are nagging doubts? Maybe you should have gotten the cheesecake. Maybe next time you will. Maybe not. Somehow, even though you’re stuffed to the gills, something still isn’t right. Did you choose the wrong dessert? If you did, it’s completely understandable. There were so many to choose from and they all looked so good. How could you have known which one would have filled your needs? You couldn’t…unless your dessert spoke to you and said, “Choose me! I am what you need!” And if that happened, you likely need a lot more help than a simple dessert can offer! In life, though, you do have a Dessert that speaks to you from among the crowd. And when you hear it, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it means you’re loved! You have so many desserts to choose from: work, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, television. The list is endless. You try one after another, but you can’t find the one that satisfies. through all the commotion. You haven’t found the right Dessert to fill your needs. That part is up to you. You must order your own dessert. I can order mine and no one else’s. Same goes for you, though we can help guide others toward the ultimate Dessert. Maybe you have already placed your order with God and, yet, something still isn’t right. Read on, my friend. Have you ever been fooled by your dessert? Have you ever found yourself drooling at the thought of the first delectable bite, and then, when it arrived, you discovered it wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it’s a little burnt around the edges, crunchy where it’s not supposed to be crunchy. Maybe a little runny in the middle, or dry instead of moist. The flavor might be a little flat, or maybe even nonexistent. It’s happened to everyone at some time. Why? What happened? The picture looked so good…and the waitress…well, she made it sound even better. What went wrong? There are probably many fairly valid explanations that might apply, but ultimately, they all boil down to one simple fact. You, personally, did not examine the dessert itself to find out what you were getting. Chances are good that if you had tried, the chef would have taken it unkindly and had you physically removed from his kitchen. Remember how you chose your dessert? You picked it out of a line-up of perfect pictures of tempting desserts, each totally unblemished. The waitress came by and described them for you using your imagination to her advantage. But you didn’t check them out for yourself. Realistically, it’s generally not possible to do so. The point is this: the picture didn’t show you that your dessert might be a little crispy or a bit runny. Nor did the waitress warn you that it might be a little dry. Maybe it was still pretty good, but you’re a little disappointed because you expected the one you saw in the picture. You didn’t have the opportunity to examine it yourself and maybe you feel a little cheated. But who cheated you? Sure, the picture is a pretty one indeed. But a picture can’t convey the aroma. Nor can it pass along the feel or the taste. It didn’t intentionally mislead you, but if you’ll pardon the pun, it didn’t give you the whole picture. It can’t, in fact, because after all, it’s only a picture. It did the best it could. It was inadequate to start with. Maybe you should blame the waitress. After all, if it hadn’t been for her butting in with that big mouth of hers…

Before you give her the third degree on why she misled you, I’d like to ask you to perform a quick experiment. Ask a friend to describe the taste of chocolate to you. He or she may fumble around a little before they finally tell you to taste it yourself. Then you try to describe it to your friend. What can you say? It tastes like chocolate! You can tell them what it looks like. You can most likely tell them what it feels like. But how are you going to help them understand what it tastes like? You’re going to eventually have to tell them the same thing they told you. You have to taste it for yourself. So it is with God’s grace. Like chocolate, God’s love may taste a little different to different people. You have to taste it for yourself. I can tell you what it tastes like to me, but that doesn’t do you much good. However, there is a difference here. With God, it’s not the dessert that’s imperfect, it’s the pictures and the descriptions that we humans create to describe it. God’s love really is perfect. It’s the pictures that are sometimes flawed. Sometimes the pictures you see are a little burnt around the edges because they are pictures made by man. The waitress may tell you it’s a little dry inside and maybe for her it is. But these descriptions can cause you to get what you expect. You don’t bother to examine the dessert for yourself. Instead, you accept the perfect dessert as being flawed even though those burnt edges exist only in your mind because of the pictures you’ve seen of someone else’s dessert. Why does the waitress say it’s dry? Because the picture she saw, or the description she heard, conveyed to her that the dessert was dry. She accepted that “fact” beforehand so that when she got her dessert it was dry…at least to her. It’s what she expected. And what she expected is what she got. Had she examined the dessert herself without expectation, she would have discovered that the dessert was actually perfectly moist. It’s the way the human mind works many times. My dessert is perfect! So is yours. Sometimes the pictures we have what my dessert tastes like. But God doesn’t want you to taste my dessert. He wants you to taste yours. Maybe the pictures on the menu are a little distorted from grease spots or mustard stains…or a guilty conscience…or fear…or worthlessness, pride, envy or a hundred other things. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need the menu! God doesn’t want you to look at the menu. He wants you to examine the dessert itself. Unlike the chef, God won’t chase you out of His kitchen. In fact, He wants you to come in and has extended His invitation to you to do just that so you can sample His perfect dessert. For a few moments, lay aside your menu with all those grease spots and mustard stains. Place all those descriptions you’ve collected over the years from well meaning but, perhaps, misguided waitresses right beside them. Just leave them on the table. When we’re through, they’ll be right there where you left them so you can pick them back up again if you wish. Right now, though, God wants you to examine His dessert for yourself. He wants you to leave the luggage in the dining room and step into the kitchen with your hands free so you can run your finger along the bowl whenever you like. So come on, step through the swinging doors into God’s kitchen….

2. Preparation
“…For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Eph. 1:4 Everyone who has ever set foot in the kitchen with the purpose of concocting edibles has learned that the first step is preparing for the task. For instance, when planning to fry fish, you might want to be sure you have enough flour and oil…not to mention fish. If not, you might run to the grocery store to get your supplies, or you may simply decide to have something else for dinner. Simply put, you make plans. Before God ever said His first “Let there be…” back in Genesis, He had the entire future of the earth and each of it’s tiniest creatures planned. He knew where He would place every star and planet. Every blade of grass. Every hair on your body. Then He planned when each would fall out and were it would land. He didn’t just slop everything into the bowl and stir. He planned. Then He pulled everything out of the cupboard and set it on the counter to be added to the bowl at the right time (Ps 75:2). An interesting thing to note about desserts is this: often the particular ingredients, when tasted individually, are absolutely awful! It’s not until they have all been blended in together and baked, chilled, or fried that they have the distinction of being lip-smacking good! Same applies here. Some of the ingredients of God’s dessert are quite tasty. Others are so bitter that if a mere mortal were to taste even the tiniest dab of one of these, in its rawest form, that mortal would surely die. Even so, all of these ingredients are necessary to produce the perfect dessert. An important factor that determines how the dessert turns out is the chef. Some folks just can’t cook, and others can whip up almost anything with their eyes closed. While natural ability is an important key to successful cuisine, a great deal also depends on the training of the cook, whether that training comes from years of school and experience, or whether it comes from years of watching and helping Mom in the kitchen. There is One, however, who cannot be outdone in the kitchen (or anywhere else!). His natural ability is, no doubt, the key to His success in the culinary field. Because of that ability, He knew that the time spent in preparing and planning would only enhance the final product! That’s why He took the care to be sure that each little sprinkle of salt was planned before He started. He’s an expert! It’s His hope that you might come to know Him a little better as you watch Him work, and that you might share His recipe with others. Everything is laid out on the counter. God has washed His hands and dried them on His immaculate apron and smiled in anticipation of the scrumptious aroma that will soon fill His heavenly home. Step closer, now, so you don’t miss anything. The first things on the counter are… The ingredients, of course!

A Pinch of This "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” Col. 1:16 The very first creations of God were angels (Job 38:4-7). They shouted for joy as the earth was being formed! There are many accounts of angels doing His holy work scattered throughout His word. Gabriel appeared to Daniel (Dan. 8:15,16). An angel told Joseph to take Mary for his wife, even though she was expecting a child and had no husband (Matt. 1:20). There’s one who guards the gates of Eden with his flaming sword, even until this very day (Gen. 3:24). And the list goes on. Why did God create them? He created them as ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). God had already planned their purpose to serve humans before there even were humans. Before there was an earth for us to live on. Notice that God created them to serve whom? Those who will inherit salvation. The fall of man didn’t surprise God. The plan was in place before the dirt that made Adam was ever created! You can’t plan any farther ahead than that, but God did! And He planned the eternal future at the same time! Yours and mine included. Some angels serve at His altar in heaven (Rev. 8:2), while some scurry to and fro, delivering messages from the Pearly Gates to earth, as in Joseph’s case. Others run around shutting lions’ mouths (Dan. 6:22) when guys like Daniel get tossed into the den to be eaten. Still others are out fighting the bad guys (Dan. 10:13). Along with delivering messages and protecting us, an angel took asking God to take his life…he’d had enough (ever felt that way?). He wanted to quit…to just die and get it over with. Instead, God sent him angels… And, wow!! How about Jesus, huh? Jesus was having a tough time inside Himself on the Mount of Olives, and what happened? Yep. An angel appeared and gave Him strength (Luke 22:43)! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Angels were created for man. To communicate with us, to protect us, and sometimes, just to encourage us when we need it the most. We humans tend to think of angels as loving, gentle, kind and full of goodness. That’s all very true, for the most part. But angels are one of those bittersweet ingredients I’ve mentioned. After all, Lucifer was once God’s favorite angel. He enjoyed indescribable beauty, unsurpassed wisdom (except for God, of course) and great power and authority (Ez. 28:12-15). Then it went to his head (Ez, 28:17-19, Is. 14:1215, Luke 10:18). When he fell, he suckered a good many of his fellow angels into the pit along with him. How could this happen? Didn’t God have control over the very creatures He created? Of course! We are told in Psalms 8:5 that mankind was made a little lower than the angels. When God made us, as humans, He gave us the free will to choose between serving Him or not. Since angels are even higher (for now) in the creation order than we, they were given the same freedom to choose. God didn’t, nor does He now, want robots that serve Him by force. He wants those who will serve Him because they want to. It might be interesting to note that God knew Lucifer would rebel. He knew a fair number of His angels would follow suit. He knew this before He ever created them. And yet, He created them anyway. Why?

Because He also knew that even more angels would remain loyal to Him and return His love and carry out the work He had assigned them to do: minister to and serve man. Make no mistake. Angels are real. All angels are real. Those loyal to God, and those who’ve fallen away. Lucifer and his band know that, with each passing day, they are running out of time. That’s why they’re working so hard to keep the world in chaos. The farther away from God they can keep you, the more they sit in their lair and emit their sinister chuckles. They hate God, humans and each other. They get their kicks from misery. But they’ve already lost. You’ll see that when we put the frosting on the cake. Enough said for now! Next we have…

A Pinch of That “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen. 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth. Do you ever stop to really think about that simple statement? How vast are the heavens? Where do they begin? Where do they end? What wonders do they hold? How many stars are there? What holds the Big Dipper together and keeps it from being just a bunch of scattered twinkling dots in the sky? Why were they created? Aside from the obvious beauty they offer, they enable mankind to navigate the oceans and other places that have no recognizable landmarks. They help us keep our time on track. They give us something wondrous to ponder and gaze upon and something to stroll hand in hand under when we’re feeling romantic. They give us a tiny glimpse of God’s magic. What about the sun and the moon? Isn’t it interesting that if the sun were any closer we’d be toast? And if it were any farther away, we’d be ice cubes? At 93,000,000 miles, it’s not too hot, not too cold. It’s just right. Amazing! Why are they there? “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” Gen. 1:14, 15. It’s as simple as that! Aside from the beauty, the navigational aids and telling time, they were created to give light to the earth, and to mark the seasons, days and years. They were created for us. They tell us when to plant our crops, chop our firewood, break out the fuzzy warm jammies. We take them for granted because we have always known their presence, but what if one morning, they were gone? And the earth. We humans live on a rock that floats in space! What keeps it from falling? And if it did fall, where would it go? What keeps it revolving around the sun and spinning on its axis at the same time? Scientists tell us that the earth spins at about 1000 miles per hour and, at the same time, it hurls through space on its course around the sun at about 41,000 mph. How come we can’t feel the movement? Can you imagine a merry-go-round ride at 1000 mph? Yet, we feel nothing. Why? Where does gravity come from and what would happen to us if it ever disappeared? What keeps all the other planets in their proper orbits? What keeps them from floating all over space and bumping into each other? I know there are probably scientific explanations for all of these questions, but I prefer the one that Job gave us long ago: “…he suspends the earth over nothing.” (Job 26:7). God holds it up. It has no legs, no base. There are no strings attached. God holds it up! Why? Because He chooses to do so. What would happen if He ever let go? How often do we thank Him for not letting go? How often do we give Him the credit for keeping Jupiter from plunging down our smokestack? But He holds it up anyway, for us to take for granted and abuse. The temptation to go on about the heavens and earth is strong, but I promised myself to be brief as we covered the ingredients of His dessert. This one is most definitely one of the sweeter. Be that as it may, I somewhat reluctantly leave this one to go on to the next…

Garnish "Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.” Gen. 1:11 Here’s another of those sweet ingredients. God created for us a wide variety of plants and trees. So many people today have never had the opportunity to simply sit in a field and admire the scenery. Many do not take the time for an occasional stroll through the woods. Besides being incredibly relaxing, I can’t help thinking that, at those moments, we might just be a little closer to God. The sheer beauty of nature, unspoiled by progress, is just a tiny indication of His love for us. Take, for instance, the stark branches of a huge oak tree in the winter, its trunk and limbs knotted and twisted by time, standing tall against a gray sky; desolate, barren…and beautiful. Or, maybe, walking along a carpet of pine needles dropped from pines so tall and thick, that you can barely see the bottom branches in the dim light. How about emerging into a meadow full of weeds and flowers set against the backdrop of a rippling pond? God. The ultimate chef. The ultimate artist. When He whipped up His dessert, He didn’t use limp parsley to garnish His dish. He used His creativity and skill to provide the most splendid array of decoration ever conceived! What human mind or scientific fluke could have ever designed a single rose? Or the magnificent, multi-purpose, neversay-die potato? He gave us lush jungles and flat plains of wheat, barley and corn. He gave us mountains covered with trees of many different sizes and shapes, each bearing fruit with seeds to insure the species goes on, each according to their various kinds. Aside from the eye-appeal and the fact that they provide us with food, do you realize what would happen to the human race without these unappreciated creations? We’d die. But what if we kept the plants that provided food and got rid of the rest? After all, common sense tells us we must eat to survive. Suppose we just had to do without the ones that serve no purpose to our diet? We’d die. It’s no accident that God put plants and trees on earth. Why did He put them here (besides our nourishment)? The first thing that pops into mind is shelter, but no, that’s not it. Think back to your grade school science class. People need oxygen and plants give it to us! We suck it up without even thinking. Then we exhale poison into the air, which the plants absorb into their own systems and convert back to oxygen. What a coincidence! Now granted, there’s a lot of oxygen in the atmosphere. But with somewhere around eight billion or so people on earth, you’re looking at sixteen billion or so nostrils inhaling oxygen into the same number of lungs. Then they’re all exhaling poison. With nothing to remove the poison and replenish the oxygen, it stands to reason that somewhere down the line, somebody’s gonna be looking at trouble! Of course, this is only a theory. On top of that it’s my theory, but it sounds logical. At least to me. Besides, there are places today that are already experiencing problems of this nature due to pollution and lack of trees and plants.

Take a look at Los Angeles. Asphalt. Concrete. Brick and mortar and steel. About the only green stuff you’ll find is on that ham sandwich you stuck in the fridge and forgot about. I’m not knocking L.A. In fact, up to this point in my life, I’ve never even been there. It’s not that city. It’s all cities. It’s progress. With that said, we’ll move along. Next on the list is…

A Sprinkle of Breath “And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.”” Gen. 1:20. “And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.” Gen.1:24. So much for the theory of evolution. I’ve wondered about that theory. If it were, in fact, true, how come we still have apes? Why aren’t they people too? Why did some apes turn into people, some into elephants, and some into aardvarks? And how come we’re still people? Seems that by now we would have evolved into the next step up the ladder, whatever that may be. It never did make much sense to me, and I’ve never given it much thought, but I’m sure the evolutionists have an explanation. I have my own. It’s the first chapter of Genesis. If it hadn’t been for the birds, would the thought of flying have ever entered man’s mind? And if by some chance it did, what would Orville and Wilbur have used for a model? The fact that the little critters fly at all is a miracle, but they do it without effort, naturally and gracefully. God thinks birds are important. Not a sparrow will fall to the ground without His knowing (Matt. 10:29). Just think, of all the millions of birds, He knows each one, where it goes, what it needs. And He provides. Animals. Have you ever stopped to consider what magnificent creations they are? Man’s best friend. A dog. A beast. An animal. They love you regardless of how you may look or feel. They don’t care how much money you have (or don’t have!) or what color your skin is. Ever yelled at your dog? Sure you have. What happened? He probably cowered with his tail between his legs and meekly crawled to the nearest corner. But then what? At the very next squeak of your chair, he was back again, tail wagging, tongue hanging out all over the place, loving you in spite of your foul mood. Thank You, Lord, for dogs! What about cats? Truly unique beings that exude dignity and command respect from all other species, including man. Lions, tigers, panthers…even tabbies. Each conjures up its own images: proud, royal, majestic. Deer. Elegant, gentle animals of beauty and grace. Rabbits. Is there a creature more peaceful and timid? What about elephants? Their sheer size is enough to fill one with awe and admiration. Apes. One of the more intelligent animals. Similar to man, but totally unrelated. There is no creature that isn’t unique. None that is anything other than God’s work. The way these fellows are put together, some of them in rather strange ways, is fascinating! Can man build a bird? Of course not! He tried. He got the airplane instead. That’s the closest he’s ever come to creating an animal on his own, and he needed to use God’s creation as a model for that! Animals provide us with food, companionship, entertainment and knowledge. And they’re free. Ever notice that the ones we use for food are among the most plentiful? Of course, these days man helps by raising and feeding them, but think of those we use for the purpose of nourishment. Cows: peaceful, tame, trusting. Can you imagine trying to milk a lion? Thankfully, we don’t have to because it is the cow that provides milk for humans. The main bird in our diet is one of the few that fly like a rock. And they lay eggs large enough to be useful, too! How many hummingbird eggs would it take for your breakfast? Thankfully, we may never know because of the chicken! Hogs. There is hardly a part of a hog that can’t

be used for one thing or another if you have the stomach for it. And they are all comparatively plentiful! Rabbits alert mankind of impending birth. Horses give mankind a method of measuring power…and for centuries before the motor came along, they were the main mode of transportation for much of the world. Mice give life through the discoveries in medicine. What life would have been the same without Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote or the Pink Panther? Remember Gentle Ben? Hi-yo, Silver, away! Lassie, Benji, and Toto. Charlie Tuna. Garfield. How about Miss Piggy, or Big Bird or Kermit? These are just a few of the many animals that give childhood some of its magic. How different it would be without them! How different we would be! Again, I’d like to say a lot more, but you don’t need me to use your imagination to think of all the wonders these creatures provide. I’ll make up for it along the way. Besides, I’m anxious to see how the next section turns out. Introducing…

Sour Grapes “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”” Gen. 1:26 There you have it. God’s greatest, and at the same time, most bitter creation. Man. Think back for a moment. Before He created the earth, He made the angels. Why? To minister to and to serve man. Then He made the heavens and earth. Why? For man, that he might have a way of measuring time and a place to live and enjoy…a paradise, even! Added to the earth itself, were plants and animals. Why? For man. That he might have beauty, nourishment, companionship, shelter and proof of our Creator’s existence. Is there a pattern here? Everything God has planned and carried out to this point has been for one purpose. Man. You are the culmination of His creative effort! You are the reason all these other things were created! You weren’t even around when He made the angels. Or the earth. But He made them for you! You were in His plans! You are the reason He made these things! He made them to prepare the way for you! Why did He make all these things for you? Because He loves you! He loved you when you were just a thought in His mind. Before the ground your feet walk on was formed by His mighty Word. Before the air you breathe ever existed. Before the heavens that give home to your earth ever twinkled with the very first star. Before all that stuff was ever pulled out of the cupboard, God loved you! (Prov. 8:22-36). He loved you enough to put all things on earth under your rule. He made you a king of the earth. His love was great enough to appoint you to have eternal life (John 3:16) and to one day judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3) should you decide to accept His dessert. And still we turn away! Man. The most treacherous of His creations. What? Wait a minute! What about that ol’ serpent? The one that rebelled against God? How come he’s not the bitterest creation? Why us? Because that old saying, “the devil made me do it” is a lie. Satan can’t make us do anything! He can tempt and lure and beg and cry, but he can’t make us do anything! We choose to turn away from God. We choose to sin. After all He’s given us we still turn away. It’s not necessarily because we don’t love Him. It’s because we’re human. Fortunately, God knows we’re human. He is our Creator, you’ll recall. He knew before He made us that we would sin and fall short of His expectations. That’s why He added the next ingredient to His dessert. The one without which, there would be no dessert. Not a pinch. Not a sprinkle. Not a dash. Instead…

Cups That Runneth Over With... Jesus. The main ingredient of God’s dessert. Not one way. Not a way. But THE way! The truth. The life (John 14:6). The Son of God! The One all people must go through to find God. The remainder of the above verse reads, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” It doesn’t say, “No one except those who believe in God.” It doesn’t say, “No one except those who help the poor.” Nor does it say, “No one except those who do good deeds.” It says,“No one comes to the Father” except those who come through His Son, Jesus. It’s that simple! I’m sorry, folks, but there is only one way to taste God’s dessert and Jesus is the fork! Without Jesus, no dessert! I can’t help how good you are, or how generous, or how much you believe in God; without Jesus…no dessert. How can that be? Isn’t that rather harsh coming from a God that loves us so much? As you’ll see later, it’s actually quite the opposite. He set it up this way because He loves us. It’s not harsh. Instead, it’s so terribly, terribly sweet and loving! Believing in God isn’t enough. The devil and his angels all believe in God. He’s the One who kicked ‘em out of heaven. Sure they believe! They cringe at the thought of Him (James 2:19). But they believe. Yet they don’t accept His authority and love. And His authority is a very kind, generous, loving authority that provides more than you’ll ever want or need! It’s the kind of authority that allows for our mistakes. It’s the same authority that declares there is only one way to submit to Him and that way is Jesus. Why is God so tough about this? We’ll be taking a closer look at this a bit later, but for now, here’s a thought for you to ponder. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed…” You can’t claim to believe in the Bible without believing in Jesus. You can’t believe in parts of the Bible and not other parts! All Scripture is God-breathed! Not just the parts you like or agree with or understand. All. To believe only in parts is to call God a liar. Do you believe the Bible or don’t you? Do you believe in Jesus or not? I ask this because many claim to believe in God, but not in His Son. It’s very important here to note, again, belief in Jesus goes hand in hand with acceptance. The devil believes in Jesus, just as he does in God. But he doesn’t accept either of them. Remember a few pages back? We were talking about your dessert. Your dessert doesn’t become yours until you ask for it and accept it as yours! If you don’t ask for it, the waitress won’t bring it. If you ask, then send it back to the kitchen or leave it sitting on the table, what good has it done? You still don’t have the dessert! You have to ask…then you have to accept. Then and only then, can you enjoy your dessert. There is one ingredient left. Jesus is the sweetest, for without Him, there would be no dessert. The next one is of equal importance, because without it, the work Jesus came to perform would not have been finished. Therefore, it is sweet. But there is no sweetness in it. Only the love of God Himself could have overcome the darkness and evil of this final ingredient. Bitter. Ugly. Foul. Necessary…

The Frosting On The CakeThe cross. Probably the simplest form of construction man could have conceived. Two rough wooden beams fastened together in a perpendicular fashion. Like toothpicks in a layer cake, it’s the thing that holds the whole dessert together. The thing that enabled Jesus to finish His work here on earth. I’d like to point out that this cross, though seemingly constructed of two wooden beams, was in fact, constructed of God’s love for mankind. So you see, it’s only partly the cross. The rest is what it’s made of. To understand the depth of this love, you have to understand the events that unfolded at the time this particular ingredient was added. We’ll cover some of the whys and wherefores a little later, but, for the moment, I ask you to step back into the past with me. I ask you to spend some time in your mind. Regardless of where you are at this particular moment, stop. Think… Remember... Imagine… Imagine it was you. Just a few short days ago, you came strolling into town. Seemed the whole town had turned out to see you and welcome you back. People lined the streets, cheering, calling out your name, trying just to catch a glimpse of you as you passed by. Some reached out to touch you. They cried to you, calling you, “Master!” “Savior!” “Lord!” They worshiped you as you passed, many with tears of joy streaming down their cheeks, dripping into the dust of the street. Remember? You saw some familiar faces, but most you didn’t recognize as someone you’d seen before. Yet you knew them all. And you knew you’d see them again. Some of them you would study long and hard as you fulfilled the Scriptures. For a few short hours that seemed like eternity, you’d study them. But at the moment, they worshiped, calling out like lost sheep to a shepherd. They loved. They adored. But you knew what was coming. You knew that a long time ago. And you were scared. Petrified. Terrified. But willing. You were so afraid that you prayed to God that He wouldn’t ask you to go through with it. You prayed so hard and so long and with such passion and fear, that sweat poured from your body. You didn’t want to be separated from your Father by the sin you’d carry. But at the same time, you did want to…for the people. And you also knew that even if God hadn’t asked you to go through with it, you would have done it anyway…for the people. If there was only some other way… But there wasn’t. There was only one way. In fact, this whole thing had been your idea! Back before the creation of the world… Remember? You were afraid. But not of men or death. You feared separation from Him…your Father. In all of eternity you had never been apart from your Dad. Sure, you knew He would be there to catch you. But

before He could catch you, you had to fall. You had to be separated from Him before He could welcome you back home. Separated! Apart from the One whom you had been a part of for all eternity! The inseparable being ripped apart… But as much as you feared being apart from your Father, you wanted, even more, to do His will. And an angel came down to strengthen you. In the fading light, a group of vigilantes calling themselves men of God burst into the clearing where a tiny group of your friends were standing with you. A man who had walked with you for hundreds of miles, shared your meals, lived with you and worked with you every day for the past three years, walked up, kissed you on the cheek and betrayed you. Your friend. But you already knew he would. It had to be. As the vigilantes grabbed you, a brief scuffle followed between them and your followers. Funny. Though they were fighting for your life, you didn’t approve. You were willing. You knew. And while every fiber of your body cried against going with them, every beat of your heart whispered, “Yes!”. There was never a question, only the knowledge of the path you had chosen. When the dust cleared, you stood alone with your band of accusers. Alone. The others had run. Your friends. Those who had sworn they’d rather die with you than turn their backs on you. Gone. But you had known they’d run. And strange as it seemed, you didn’t blame them. They were scared, too. After all, they were human. Besides, you needed them to run. They had to run so that when all this was over, they could tell the story. And now… Rough, angry hands pushing, shoving, dragging. Voices snarling with hate. Insults. False accusations. Something wet on your face. Spit. Another of the sneering faces spits on your cheek. Others follow suit. As disgusted as you may be, you can’t even wipe it off because your hands are bound. As it drips down your chin, your face smacks into someone’s fist. And you can hear the laughter. When your vision clears, you see the blurry image of a burly guard still grinning and rubbing his knuckles. Another lines up to take his turn. It’s not long before your lips are swollen and bleeding. Your eyelids are puffy and almost swollen shut. Blood running down your cheeks. And it hurts. It hurts a lot. But this is nothing. You can hardly see. Your eyes are almost completely shut from the beating. Your lips are torn open from being pounded between Roman knuckles and your own teeth. Your head is pounding. You can hardly breathe. You’re easy prey. Defenseless. All you can do is lie there and have your face stomped in while some of the other guards are playing soccer with your belly-button. And the laughter. That evil, wicked laughter. Straight from hell.

The devil himself. Laughing. Mocking. Finally, they drag you up and before the judge. Again, the false accusations…but the judge can find no wrong in you. Meanwhile, though, your accusers have riled the crowd against you. The crowd that had gathered to witness the punishment of two thieves and a murderer. The crowd that had welcomed you and worshiped you mere hours ago. Yeah, that crowd. Now they scream for your blood. The judge, fearing for his own life and reputation, condemns you to die and releases the convicted murderer. You are to die in his place. But you already knew you would. You had to. Still alone, you can hear the mob screaming. You can feel the hate. The rage. Not a single person to stand beside you. For what crime are you being punished? Love. Satan has never in his existence manifested his presence so strongly. I’m convinced he never will again. The crowd that killed Jesus that day was controlled by the devil himself…but even then, only as God allowed. No, he didn’t make the crowd go wild, but he surely fueled the passions of hate. And why not? Here was his chance to kill God! Victory at last! There can be no uglier, more vile presence than that of Satan. There can be no way to describe just how ugly and vile it was. There can be no way to truly imagine. No, he didn’t make anyone do anything. He simply offered an alternative and stirred the hearts. And the people chose… You are sentenced to die. They take you out, strip off your robe and the leather cracks through the air. You sink to your knees in pain. Already beaten, you’ve received only the first lash of the whip that rips out chunks of your flesh with each blow. By the time they finish, your back is raw, bloody meat, literally hanging in strips from your body. It hurts too much to even scream. Naturally, you can’t even think about standing, and when you’re touched? Dear God, please don’t let them touch me again! The faces around you are laughing and jeering. A stray fist, an occasional wad of spit smack into what’s left of your body. Some wise guy has made a crown of thorns for you to wear to the big event. He places it gently on your head, then with all his might, rips it down through your flesh to make sure it’s a snug fit. Sure, it pulls your hair. And it hurts. But not nearly so much as the thorns imbedded in your scalp or the gashes they gouged out of your forehead. They’ve already plucked out your beard…one handful of whiskers at a time. A boot against the cheek…and handful of Jewish beard…and a good hard solid yank. What are a few thorns snagging your tangled, matted hair? You never figured until today that sweat could hurt you so much. You can feel each drop as it drips into one wound or another, and that alone is enough to drive you crazy! The more you hurt, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you hurt.

Do you remember what it was like? Think about it long and hard. Think about it slowly. Think! Do you remember? You should. That was YOUR place He was taking! He died for YOU! They leave you bleeding and hurting on the floor and step out. Just as Isaiah, the prophet, had predicted, your body is marred and disfigured beyond human likeness. Think about that! Marred and disfigured beyond human likeness! What’s left of you doesn’t even look human! When they return, they force you to your feet, drag you out the door and lay the cross on your shredded back. The texture of the beams is rough to the touch, but on your hamburger-meat back, it’s excruciating! And yet, you stumble forward. Each bump of the cross on the cobblestone street sends unspeakable pain through your body, but you struggle on - uphill no less. Past the throngs of people that, even now, are still spitting at you, cursing you, throwing whatever they can get their hands on. Past the open windows of the temple where the priests are praying in their loud religious voices, even as you pass by, for Jehovah to send the promised Messiah, unaware that the God to whom they pray is crawling by on a street that’s slippery with His own blood. You crawl on until you just can’t crawl anymore. Until you collapse face down on the street, your face rubbed into your own gore by the weight of the cross on your back. They pull a guy from the crowd and force him to carry your cross for you; all the while, people line the path, jeering, sneering, yelling and cursing at you. At you! All that hatred. Just for you. You alone. At the top of the hill, this fellow lays the cross on the ground and disappears into the crowd. How you long to be with him! A nobody. Just another face in a multitude of faces. But his name will live on forever. Simon. The only act of kindness you can recall from the past few hours is the look of sadness, hopelessness, despair and compassion you saw in his eyes as he carried your burden. They kick your legs out from under you and drag you on your shredded back onto the cross. A heavy boot stands on your fingers to keep them stretched out, so they won’t curl around the spike after the first blow. Then, the first swing of the hammer. Pain? Oh yeah…lots of it! Another swing. And another. And then your feet. They lift the cross and drop it into the hole they dug to help hold it up…with you attached. The impact of your cross thudding into the ground rips your arms from their sockets and the nails tear through your flesh as they slam the brakes on the downward motion of your body. Remember what you did next? Sure you do. You hung there. Impaled. Suspended. Silhouetted against a darkening sky. And you looked at the faces below. The faces in the crowd. The faces of hate and rage. You studied them. And you loved them. Remember?

Thank you for taking the time to read the free version of this book! May the Lord use it to help lead you in tasting your own dessert… and may it be just as sweet as mine! If you would like to download the full version of the entire book, please click here. If you would like to make the full version of this book available on your Kindle device, please click here. If you would like to order a softcover copy of this book, please click here. Please feel free to visit my website (also now available on Kindle!) and drop me a line! www.imonlywood.com See you at the wedding of the Lamb!

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