Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Story…by Laurel Hildebrandt…

Squinting through the black and blue slits that once were beautiful eyes she surveyed her surroundings.  She was up to her ankles in slimy muck.  She could just make out the heavy metal anklets clamped around her ankles so tight that blood oozed out from the sores they were creating.  Attached to the anklet torture were heavy chains which snaked along to the wall.  Her wrists were similarly bound to the wall.  All she could move was her eyes and her head – but just barely.  She squeezed her eyes shut to ward off the images of torture and death all around her.  People everywhere were caught and trapped similar to her.  It was a slow, painful, agonizing death.  Even closing her eyes she could still see the wounds, open and gaping on her skin.  Closing her eyes tighter did not block out the awful smell rising from her own rotting flesh.  Oh God, she thought.  I’m sorry.  I see now.  Please save me!

“Open your eyes child,” said a gentle voice.

Shocked to hear anything at all besides her own groans her eyes flew open.  Gazing through the swollen slits again she thought she could make out the hazy figure of a man.  Or was it an angel?  It was really hard to tell through the eyes that just did not seem to work anymore.  Her mouth tried to open but no words would come through her parched throat and lips.  Oh God, she thought again.  Is this some sort of joke?

“No joke,” came the voice again, as if it had read her mind.  “I’m here to get you out of here.”

She stared at him in complete and utter disbelief.  Her mind flew into action.  Could it be?  Could it really be … God?

“Yes,” said the author of the voice.  “It is me.  I’ve come to save you.  Are you ready to go?  Will you come with me?”

Her mouth tried to curve into a cynical smile, but her lips were so chapped they just cracked and began to bleed.  God, she thought.  Really?  I can’t believe it.  Who does this fool think he is…but wait…  The girl’s eyes popped open wider.  There was definitely someone strong, and gentle looking standing in front of her.  No chains on him.  In fact he wasn’t even sinking into the muck.  He seemed to be floating on top of it.  This was weird.  The girl sighed.  Squeezing her eyes shut again she tried to calm herself.  In spite of herself she thought, “Lord, if it’s truly you, please break these chains.”

Hardly able to hope anymore she squeezed her eyes shut very tight.  Even if it was God, why would He want to help her?  Hadn’t she rejected Him over and over?  Hadn’t she hurt Him over and over by doing things she knew that He wouldn’t approve of?  And because of those things she was led deeper and deeper into this prison, not even knowing she was being led to a dungeon.  She had not even realized the chains were on her, cutting into her, holding her down, until recently.  And then she had wept bitter tears.  Yet was this Christ?  Did He really come to rescue her from this awful place of torment?

“My child,” the girl heard.  “I have never left you.  I have been here with you all along.  You just couldn’t see me until you were ready to.  I promised to never leave you.  I haven’t.  Nothing can separate you from me and my love for you.”

Suddenly she felt her whole body fall forward, away from the wall, away from the chains.  Unable to catch herself and too weak to try, she fell.  He caught her in gentle arms.

“Don’t worry child.  I’ve got you.  The chains are broken.  Would you like to leave this place now?”

Still unable to talk the girl simply nodded.  Jesus, still cradling her in His strong arms, walked on top of the mud, with enemy guards standing stock still at His presence and not interrupting her get away.  As He climbed the last stair with her in His arms He turned and said quietly, yet sternly, “Be gone.”  The girl gasped as all the enemies and the dungeon vanished.

“Are you ready to go to your safe spot that I have prepared for you?”

Nodding again she smiled, then stopped as her dry lips bled some more.

“No worries child.  I have chap stick,” Jesus said and proceeded to touch her lips with a balm she had not ever seen.  Instantly her lips were healed.  Looking around her she noticed that her surroundings had changed.  There was a waterfall flowing down into beautiful, clear water.  There was green grass surrounding the river and a large tree, similar to a weeping willow tree, yet different, hanging down into the river.  Jesus, still holding her, walked right into the water.  Surprised, the girl held her breath.

Jesus laughed.

“You don’t have to hold your breath in this water.  Breathe it in child.  Let it fill you and heal you on the inside and the out!”

She shook her head no and kept her breath in.  After awhile her face turned blue and she let out her breath while at the same time breathing in the water.  It was sweet.  The water rushed through her in swirls and tickles.  She felt its power surge through her body and heal all her wounds.  The girl drank thirstily of the water that held pure truth and was filled.  The girl smiled.  “How silly I am for not trusting someone who just got me out of that dungeon!” she thought.

“Silly indeed,” said Jesus as He laughed a great belly laugh.  He then kissed her cheek and said, “But oh how I love you anyway!”

As they rose from the water Jesus led her to the grassy hillside.  From behind the tree He pulled out a white blanket and spread it on the ground.  Then He said, “Look,” and turned her toward the tree.  She gasped as she turned to look into a full length mirror that had somehow materialized on the tree.

“What am I looking at?” she asked, her throat and lips seemingly not parched anymore.  “All I see is that beautiful woman!  She is perfect and flawless and wearing the most beautiful white, beaded gown I have ever seen!  The crown on her head is exquisite with all those beaded jewels on it.  Her hair is so long and silky.  She has eyes like yours Jesus.  Wow!  Who is she Jesus?” the girl asked thinking that she was looking at a portrait instead of a mirror.

Jesus threw back His head in a joyous laugh.  Looking deeply into the girls eyes He said, “You are looking at you.  For I have saved you.  You were dead in your sins, and I have made you alive in me.  By my grace you have been saved.”
                 Nothing can separate us from the love of God!  Rom 8:35ff

Romans 8:35ff “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine,, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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