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S o . .   w h a t   m a d e   t h e   d i f f e r e n c e ?

Well.. what made the difference?

While studying for my Bar-mitzvah ceremony, I was learning to translate Genesis chapter 22 , in which Abraham is told by God to take his dearly loved son, Isaac, to a Mountain in order to sacrifice him there. Well you can imagine I wasn't too impressed by God on this one.. I mean - I bet He wouldn't do it, I thought to myself.. I really thought I knew what God was all about.. until..

.. one July day after my 12th birthday
The "Finchley Carnival" is a fun-fair - held annually a couple of miles from my home. As I walked through the turnstile I was handed a small piece of paper. It was an invitation to "Come to the Jesus Tent"
Ha! I'll show them a thing or two, I thought to myself!!
I walked along and the first marquee was the "Baby Show" tent. Strangely enough I wasn't that interested.. but outside the next tent was a multi- lingual placard with words like
"Bienvenu", "Buenos Dias", "Welcome", and "Shalom"..
Talk about red rag to a bull, or bacon butty to a rabbi... "Jesus Tent", eh? "What right do these Christians have to use my Jewish language? Since when do Christians use the Jewish word, "Shalom"?? Oh boy am I gonna tell them a thing or two??!
So in I went like a little 5 foot zealot - like Paul on the road to the Damascan Church, "breathing threats and murder against the church" as it says in Acts chapter 9 verse 1..
When I went in I was met, very pleasantly by a guy named Paul Stone.. the name of one of my brothers. I told him that I was concerned about the Christians using "my language".. We talked for a long time, and he seemed genuinely interested in the fact that I was Jewish. We spoke about forgiveness, sin and all kinds of "religious" words like that. Paul showed me many of the promises that God made about sending His Servant, the Messiah, which were written in the Hebrew Bible - what people usually call the "Old Testament."
I was absolutely amazed at this, but didn't know what to do next.. it was getting late and I had to cycle home.. I took a number of leaflets with me and thanked Paul for his time. That night I remembered what was written on someone's t-shirt in the Tent..
Jesus said: I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life.No-one comes to the Father except through Me..(John's gospel chapter 14 verse 6)
Well, that was a really serious claim.. if it was true. I read more, about the way Jesus was put on trial, prophecied over 700 years previous in Isaiah chapter 53, condemned to death.. how He suffered the terrible agony of crucifixion.. prophecied centuries before in Psalm 22 and finally how after dying, having a spear thrust into His side, He was buried.
Or perhaps not finally after all.. I read on.. about His resurrection from the dead, prophecied also in Isaiah 53.. I came back to one other verse in John's gospel. chapter 3, verse 16:
God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him will not die but will live for ever"
Now, what was it I had thought about Abraham?? - how unfair it was of God to tell Abraham to put the wood on his son's back, to take him up the hill, to offer him as a sacrifice.. and yet here was Jesus, God's beloved Son, with the wood of the cross-beam on His back, going up the hill to the place of crucifixion, to be offered as a sacrifice, once for all time..
I went back to the Carnival the following night.
As I approached the Tent I started to cry. I found myself weeping because in a small way I'd begun to see what a life I'd lived. I used to steal, to lie, to cheat.. I used to be so deceitful.. I would argue.. I was so selfish. I wasn't worthy to stand before God.
I went into the Tent and sat down at a table. Someone was singing an old song "Put your hand in the hand of the Man Who stilled the waters". I really wanted peace - in the middle of the storms of life, I wanted peace.
Someone came up to me, sat down and put their arm round my shoulder. "Is there anything we can do?" he asked. I just blurted out how I felt - that in the words of the Bible I was a sinner.. I was no good in God's sight. The young man simply said that he knew God loved me so very much.. that Jesus really did die to take away my guilt.. everything that stood in the way of having a real relationship with God, my Father. By this time a few others had gathered round as we talked. Finally the young man asked me.. "Do you want to know Jesus?". My response was immediate: "Yes, I do", I said. So he prayed a simple prayer, talking naturally to God, His heavenly Father, amazingly, he started by thanking God for creating me, thanking Him for loving me, for bringing me to the Tent, and thanking Jesus for dying, and rising for me.
Then he asked me if I would pray a prayer with him. I repeated simple phrases after him.. talking to God in a real way for the first time in my life. I said how sorry I was for my past. I thanked Jesus for giving me the chance of a brand new life. And then I asked Jesus to come and live within me by His power.

Suddenly it was as if fireworks had gone off inside me!! My whole body - inside and out - felt washed by a powerful burst of energy - like a strong waterfall.. my eyes became sharp, my hearing became clear, everything became vibrant and real.. and I knew.. I KNEW that I had been forgiven. Now I was laughing and crying with tears of joy and happiness! It was real - everything that had been written about Jesus - I knew beyond doubt - it was real! He's alive!!
I knew from that moment on, even though I would fail Him, and I would stumble my way into heaven, that Jesus was with me for all time, and for eternity..Best Friend, Guide, Shepherd, God and King!!

Within a short while, I was outside the tent telling people: "I've met Jesus!! I've been forgiven!! He's real!!"
Over the weeks I began to go to church and although I often did let my Jesus down, I knew then, as I know know, that my life will never be the same.
Jesus has made all the difference - Thank God!

UPDATE... November 1997....Just recently I went up to London, and drove past the place where I first really heard that amazing news about Jesus - Y'shua -
the Messiah, over a quarter of a century ago. Then I went a couple of miles down the road and stood outside the house our family used to live in for so long. It was raining. The conifer trees still smelled the way they used tothe day my father laid the tarmac in the drive. I remembered him building the garage. I remembered cutting the hedge, washing the car, cutting the grass. And now? Now other people live there. Other people cut the grass.. other people drive their cars in and out, use the front door, sit in the garden.
And what has happened since the day I left that house?
So very much. My life has changed and turned, the days and months, years and seasons have turned around. I have grown, worked, married, separated, divorced, studied.. been well off, been poor.. learned to drive.. dated folk, been single.. gained weight, slimmed down, even grown a beard.
But what has remained? What has been constant in all this?
Simply this. that Jesus, my Messiah has never forgotten me, never forsaken me.
And He promises to all who come to Him that same eternal promise.. "I will not leave you like orphans" as He spoke nearly 2,ooo years ago in an upper room in Jerusalem.

I'm not perfect. But I know Someone Who is always there for me, always picks me up. Loves me... anoints my cuts and bruises.. speaks tenderly to me.. and sharply at times, too.
"The Lord is my Shepherd", said David, King of Israel.
"I have everything I need"

Jesus told His followers in John 10:10:I am the Good Shepherd.. My Sheep hear my voice."
Have you heard the Voice of the Shepherd calling you? Come on home.. let Him bind up your wounds... let Him pour soothing oil on your hurts, your scrapes, your wounds, and you will find rest for your soul. I know.
I loved that house in Athenaeum Road, in North London. But I have a better home to go to. Somewhere Jesus has prepared for me.. and for all who follow Him. If it were not so, He would have said so... as John 14 verses 1 - 6 show.
Come home. The Shepherd is calling. Because He loves you.
If ever you want to talk with me, please e-mail, or write..

Gerry Cohen-Stone
Flat 5, 48 Ethelbert Road
United Kingdom

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