The Lord's Grace
Salvation

Accepting the Lord's Grace
"For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

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The Greatest Gift
9 June 2001

     Joe was a homeless man.  He had been homeless most of his life.  His mom and dad were killed in an auto accident when he was just a teenager.  Joe had no relatives to take him in.  Joe was retarded, he was illiterate and he had no skills, so he moved into the streets.
     Joe would sleep anywhere he could find shelter from the rain or cold, a cardboard box, a park bench, or an old abandoned car.  During the day Joe would go inside the mall for warmth and to panhandle so he could buy food.  Often mall security would make him leave.
     This day was special for it was Christmas Eve, but it didn't mean much to Joe, just another day.  This day was no different than any other day or so he thought.
     He was standing by the water fountain in the center of the mall watching all the people hurrying about, arms loaded with gifts and nothing on their minds but getting that last minute sale or gift they had forgotten.  They were pushing and shoving like there was no tomorrow.
     Angela and her mother were also shopping for last minute gifts.  Angela's mother asked her to sit by the fountain while she when into a store to get a gift for her.  She didn't want Angela to see what she was getting.  So Angela sat down to wait until her mother returned.  Joe was standing near by just trying to pass the time and to stay warm.  Angela saw Joe and asked if he was waiting for someone.  Joe told her no that he had just come in out of the cold.  Angela asked Joe why he didn't go home and get warm.
     "I don't have a home,"  Joe replied.  "I am homeless."
     Angela did not understand.  She asked Joe what he meant by being homeless.  Joe told her about his parents being dead, and that he couldn't get a job.
     This really touched Angela.  She had never known anyone who was homeless before.  Out of concern she decided to share something with Joe.  She told Joe every time I am feeling bad or things are not going my way, my mother told me to say John 3:16, and it makes me feel better.
     Joe had no idea what she meant so he began to ask her what is John 3:16?
     Just at that moment Angela's mom called out,  "Angela, let's go Dear!"   Angela told her mom she had met Joe and was talking to him.  Angela's mom scolded her for talking to strangers and took her by the hand, off they went to find their car and go home.
     Soon after Angela and her mom had left, mall security saw Joe and asked him to leave.  They were afraid that someone like Joe in the mall would be bad for business, so they escorted him out.  It was bitter cold outside and Joe was cold and hungry.
     He went back to the alley where some other homeless people who Joe knew were huddled around a fire barrel trying to get warm.  Joe was so hungry, he hadn't eaten in two days and his friends could not help him for they were also hungry.  He thought about what Angela had said to him in the mall about John 3:16.  He never did find out what it meant, but he thought that he would try it anyway.
     Joe didn't know what others would think, so he went off by himself and said  "John 3:16,"  almost instantly a van drove into the alley.  It was the Salvation Army, and they were giving food to the homeless.  They handed Joe a box filled with food.  This was great!  Joe ate his fill and it felt good.
     He went back to the barrel to try to get warm, but it was so cold that Joe couldn't get warm by the fire.  He stood there shaking all over from the cold.
     Once again he remembered what Angela had said about John 3:16.  So again he said in a very low voice so the others would not hear  "John 3:16."  And as before, no sooner had he spoken the words than a truck pulled up and a man in loud voice yells out,  "Is there anyone here who needs a blanket, its going to be very cold tonight."
     Joe got in line, and the man handed him a warm blanket.  Joe was so happy; he wrapped the blanket around himself as he stood by the barrel.  He was not as cold as before and it felt good.
     Joe didn't understand why these things were happening.  All he knew was when he said  "John 3:16,"  good things would happen.  He wished he could thank Angela.  He thought to himself, it sure would be nice to have a family like Angela's.
     Joe could remember when he was young and how wonderful it was to live in a home with food on the table, a fire in the fireplace, a warm bed to sleep in and the love of family.  Joe thought every time I have said  "John 3:16"  something good has happened.
     So again he said  "John 3:16."  This time nothing happened.  So he said it again,  "John 3:16."  Again nothing happened.  So he tried it one more time  "John 3:16."
     Unknown to Joe on the other side of town, Angela and her parents were sitting around the table talking about Christmas and what it was all about.
     Angela's dad said,  "Angel, (that's what he called her, short for Angela), what would you like most of all for Christmas?"
     Angela thought for a minute and then she said,  "Daddy, I would like to have Joe share Christmas Eve with us."
     Angela's father asked,  "Who is Joe?"
     "He is a homeless man I met today"  Angela told her father.
     "Angel, we will never be able to find him,"  her father responded.
     "But Daddy,  I know where he stays, he stays in the alley behind the mall."
     "Angela, are you sure, wouldn't you like something else?"
     "No, I want to share Christmas with Joe."
     "OK,"  her father said,  "It is Christmas and we should love one another.  We'll go to the alley and try to find him.  Get your coats on, let's go."
     So Angela, her mom and dad went to the alley behind the mall to search for Joe.
     Once they got to the mall, they went around to the back to the alley.  They saw the fire barrel with some people standing around it.  They pulled close and asked for Joe.  But he wasn't there.  Angela's father said,  "Well, let's go, we tried."
     Then some one spoke up and said that Joe might be around the corner behind the dumpster in a cardboard box.  Angela said, "Can we please go and look, please let's go see if he's there."  So they drove around the corner and they saw the box.   They called out,  "Joe! Joe are you there?"  Nothing, so Angela's dad walked up to the box and looked inside.  Sure enough, Joe was inside the box all wrapped up in his blanket.
     Angela's dad shook him gently until he was awake and told him of Angela's Christmas wish.  Then he asked him if he would like to join them for Christmas.  Joe knew that  "John 3:16"  had worked and he said yes, he would love to join them.  So Joe stood up and got into the car.
     Angela, her mom and dad said  "Merry Christmas"  and Joe smiled as a tear ran down his cheek.  They took Joe home with them for Christmas Eve.
     As Joe entered the house his eyes lit up as thoughts of his childhood flashed through his mind.  This was the happiest Joe had been since he was a child.  He cried with joy!  They sat down and Angela's mom offered Joe something hot to drink and some home baked cookies.  Joe ate and drank and was happy.
     Then Joe spoke,  "I don't know what 'John 3:16' means, but after you told me this morning to say it when I needed help, good things have happened.  I was hungry, and I said it and I was fed;  I was cold, and I said it and I was given a blanket; I was lonely and sad, and I said it and you came and took me in.  Would you please tell me what it means."
     Then Angela spoke up and said,  "I thought that everyone knew 'John 3:16.'  It's from the Bible and it says,  "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."   And Joe in a low voice said,  "I believe" and slowly slumped over in his chair.
     Angela looked over at her dad and said Daddy there's something wrong with Joe.  Angela's dad walked over to Joe's chair thinking that Joe was just tired and he had fallen asleep.  He shook Joe, but Joe did not respond.  So he shook him again, and again there was no response Angela's dad said to call 911 and her mother immediately called.
     They arrived within minutes.  Joe was having a heart attack.
     The rescue workers tried to save Joe, but it was time for Joe to go home and be with his Father.  As the rescue workers were taking Joe out, one said to the other,  "He was trying to tell me something."
     "What was it?"  the other man asked.
     "I think he was trying to give me someone's name and address.  He kept saying John 3:16, I believe."
     "Well it doesn't matter now."
     Angela's father responded,  "You are very wrong, it matters a lot to God.  That is why He sent a little Angel to bring Joe home tonight."

Author Unknown

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