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Everything Changed In a Moment

Reflecting on life’s many experiences can cause us to realize that brief moments in time could have (and sometimes did) change our lives forever.  What we may view as a chance encounter, a lucky turn of events, or a near miss of something potentially tragic happening, we truly know it was only by the grace of God that we were blessed or spared.  I marvel at the many times that I saw the car stop ahead of me “just in time”.  I can remember lots of times that I was “not” chosen for some position or task, and looking back, I live with such gratitude that was true.  How many times have we seen an event on the news and realized that the place of a tragic bombing or shooting in an airport or public place was the very site where we stood weeks or months before?  How very grateful we should be for the provision and protection that comes from the hand of our gracious God!  And, we are eternally grateful for the pardon of our sins because of His mercy!

On March 22, 1824 an incident took place in Madison County, Indiana, which came to be known as the Fall Creek Massacre. Six white men murdered nine Seneca and Miami Indians and wounded another. Among the nine dead were three women and four children. The six men were apprehended and tried and some were executed.

One of the men named John Bridge Jr. was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in the massacre. He was to be executed on June 3, 1825. His father, John Bridge Sr. and another man named Andrew Sawyer, who was John Bridge Jr.’s uncle, were also to be executed that day. John Bridge, Jr., along with a large crowd, witnessed the hangings of his father and uncle as the crowd waited expectantly for a pardon from the governor. With no sign of a pardon, a sermon was preached as the crowd waited expectantly.

Finally, John Bridge, Jr. was lead to the gallows and the rope was lowered over his head. But as the men waited for a signal, a cheer arose from the back of the crowd. A stranger rode forward and looked the condemned man in the face.

“Sir, do you know in whose presence you stand?” Bridge shook his head. “There are but two powers known to the law that can save you from hanging by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead; one is the great God of the Universe, the other is J. Brown Ray, Governor of the State of Indiana; the latter stands before you…” Handing over the written pardon, the governor announced, “You are pardoned.”

In an instant, what had looked like a hopeless situation became a door of hope. John Bridge Jr. went back home, settled down, opened a dry goods store and died peacefully, fifty-one years later! I told that story to ask this question: Can you imagine the fear that must have gripped the heart of that young man as he watched his father and his uncle die, knowing that he was next. Can you imagine the terror as he was led onto the gallows and that noose was placed around his neck? It must have been a moment of terror like few have ever experienced!

But, I know one person who had experienced that feeling. This poor sinful woman, whose story is recorded in John’s Gospel, knew that kind of fear. As she is led trembling into the presence of Jesus, she knows in her heart that she is about to die a horrible death by stoning. However, her path had led her into the presence of “the great God of the universe”. And, when she met Him, everything changed, forever!  (From a sermon by Billy Ricks, “A Stone’s Throw Away From a Changed Life”, 11/13/2009).