Shortly after moving to East Texas, hubby and I found a church to attend. Then our new pastor showed up (young and brings great sermons each week). We recently began a new sermon series, “Heaven on Earth,” which brought a lot to mind for this Christmas season.
The sermons have been chockful of nuggets – creation and intimacy with God; He takes His time creating us; and the consequences of sin never match the promises of sin (and these were just from the first week.)
Yes, God loved us enough to send His own son from heaven to this earth to be born in a lowly stable. He pursues us and wants a relationship with us, even (and especially) when we mess up. When we allow God to live in us, we are transformed. That’s why a story I read this week, chronicled by Dr. Jim Denison, was a perfect example:
Dr. Steve Foster is pastor of Community Bible Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In December 2009, he visited the “Son of Sam,” David Berkowitz, in prison.
Thirty years earlier, Berkowitz terrorized New York City, killing six people and wounding seven others. Police mounted the largest manhunt in New York City history, arresting him on August 10, 1977. Berkowitz claimed to have been obeying the orders of a demon manifested in the form of a dog belonging to his neighbor “Sam.” He pled guilty to second-degree murder and has been serving six consecutive life sentences.
Dr. Foster visited Berkowitz in prison after reading reports he had been hospitalized for a heart problem. While in prison, Berkowitz came to faith in Christ. Such “conversions” are often a play for media attention or sympathy from parole boards, but his has clearly been sincere. For decades, he has been ministering to other prisoners in Jesus’ name. He has especially focused on those who are suicidal and emotionally disturbed.
“It was hard for me to imagine this man as the former Son of Sam. He was humble, gentle, self-effacing,” says Dr. Foster. Berkowitz has developed a writing ministry with Christian ministers around the world; his testimony has been used by Prison Fellowship in many of their prison outreaches.
Berkowitz views his imprisonment as just punishment for his crimes and has regularly refused even to attend his parole hearings. He has also issued a public apology, asking for forgiveness from those he has hurt.
Dr. Foster left his meeting with David Berkowitz convinced he had witnessed a miraculous transformation from God, he wrote: “Grace. Abundant grace. Amazing grace. Poured out from God upon those who need it. And all of us need it . . . whether we recognize it or not.”
Abundant and amazing grace … now that IS Heaven on Earth.
1 Timothy 1:12-14 “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”