Your bill has been paid?

This fall my family took a day-trip to a quaint, little village about forty-five minutes North of where we live. It was the perfect opportunity to let “The Littles” enjoy some treats, a wagon ride and a fun place to go all dressed up in our version of a Halloween costume. By the way, “The Littles” is a nickname for our three youngest children. Obviously, they were named by our three oldest children. Anyway, after visiting the friendly village, we decided to go to a nearby town for supper.

We picked a place we had never been before. It was a sit-down-style restaurant that served authentic Mexican food. Often, even in a smaller restaurant, there’s one big table for a large group. When we walked in we asked to be seated at the big table, which looked like one, long dining room table and happened to be right in the center of the restaurant.

It took us a long time figuring out what we wanted to eat as we talked about everything on the menu. There were plenty of questions for the server and a fair amount of bartering for those who couldn’t make up their mind. Even meals like these are often “family style” for our crew, because we like to order a variety of entrees and put them in the middle of the table for everyone to sample. While the server brought chips, home-made salsa and our typical round of ice waters, other patrons arrived and filled the tables all around us. Most appeared to be regulars who knew what they wanted, and most seemed to acknowledge our boisterous clan with smiles or kind words.

As the sun went down, I asked the server to lower the blind on the window, because the sun was shining in my eyes so bright I couldn’t see a thing. They kindly met my request just in time for me to see them bring trays and sizzling plates of yummy fajitas, burritos, and tacos. It was obviously prepared by someone who learned to cook South of the border. (And I don’t mean Ohio) We really enjoyed it and all had our fill.

It was a lazy evening, so it didn’t concern me that the server was extremely slow bringing our bill. Finally, I walked up to the counter, got out my wallet and told them I needed to pay. The server smiled and asked, “You’re the big table in the middle, right?” Well, I knew she didn’t mean that I was a big table, but that my family had been eating at the big table, so I just said, “Yes.” She said, “Someone already paid your bill.” I was stunned. I tried to explain how I didn’t think that could be right. I said, “I don’t even know anyone here.” Then the server told me someone said they wanted to pay our bill because they saw we had a large family. I couldn’t stop shaking my head in disbelief. We have six children ranging in age from two to twenty-one, and one of my kids wasn’t even with us that night. We had never had anything like that happen before, but we were so grateful. We glanced around, but no one would let on who the generous person was who paid our bill. When I asked the server to tell them thank you, she said, “I already did.” She even brought a pile of peppermint patties to our table.

I decided to leave a tip, even though I figured they had taken care of that as well. Then, I walked out onto the street toward my family. They were loading up into our big, old Chevy Express Van. I could tell that everyone felt so blessed. I was also relieved that the kids had behaved themselves. In fact, we had a wonderful time with lots of laughter and good natured teasing. Gratitude filled my heart and I felt genuine appreciation for a stranger who bought our supper that night.

A few days later, I was preparing a message for special meetings on the topic of our great salvation. It occurred to me that we would all feel genuine gratitude if a stranger paid for our meal out of the kindness of our their heart. Yet, we may seldom feel gratitude for all God has done for us.

Think for a moment about what a great Savior you have and what a great sinner you are. The distance between those two points is how great our salvation really is. How long has it been since your heart swelled with gratitude at the thought of what Christ did for you when He took your disgusting sin upon Himself at Calvary? It reminds me of William Newell’s hymn, “Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan; Oh, the grace that brought it down to man; Oh the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.” Say it again but hold out the Oh like your singing. Ohhhh! the love that drew salvation’s plan. Feel anything?

Think of all the things that stir your emotions. Friendships, finances, football, food. Do you feel those things toward God? Ever? Why do you suppose God made us with emotions, if it wasn’t ultimately for the purpose of feeling things toward Him?

This thanksgiving, I’m going to remind myself of a righteous, infinite, all-powerful and just God who lovingly took my awful, nasty sin upon Himself so that my debt, which I could never have paid, could be settled and God’s wrath could be satisfied. Then, I’m going to use my emotions for the purpose I think He intended. I’m going to feel gratitude. I’m going to be stunned. I’m going to embrace the shocking wonder that my pure and holy Savior humbled Himself to death on a cross to forgive this low-down, good-for-nothing, sinner, to spare my life and to give me a home in Heaven with Him. And on top of it all, He put it in someone’s heart one day to pay for my meal, just because He could.

Which would make you feel more grateful today, if someone paid your bill at the restaurant or if a holy God set His love upon you and paid your debt?

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