Archive for September, 2008
I recently read an interview with a professional football player where he was asked about a dropped pass. I was glad they asked him about it. He is paid a lot of money to catch passes. He is a professional. He is not supposed to drop passes. I have seen athletes who blame the passer, or the weather, of use other excuses. I have even heard athletes say it is no big deal to miss one pass – no one catches everything. This athlete said he should have caught it, he was going to work harder in practice, and he would concentrate even harder so he would never drop another pass. I imagine he will drop another one at some point in his career, but I sure liked his attitude. I am now a fan of his, and I want his team to do well.
I found myself applying these principles to Christians who sin. We are not supposed to sin. We are supposed to be different. We claim to be, we ought to be, and we want to be. Yet sometimes we drop the ball spiritually. I am convinced that is when our true credibility is established. Christians are not perfect. We sin and make mistakes. The test of our faith and the authenticity of our belief will be seen in how we respond to those sins.
Authentic Christians do not make excuses. They are sorry, ashamed, and hurt when they do things not in harmony with their convictions. They pledge to do better, they take corrective action, and they seek forgiveness. Real Christians are not hypocrites because they sin. They are hypocritical if they fail to deal with it.
If you have been hesitant to “buy into” the idea of Jesus because of what some of his followers have done, I urge you to look a little deeper. We are not perfect, we sometimes make mistakes, and we betray our principles sometimes. But your decision about Jesus is not based on what any Christian has done. It needs to be based on what Jesus has done.
So I am asking you to look past our failures. We are not yet what we want to be. But because of Jesus, we are being changed. We are becoming more like him and less like this world.
What do you think about Christians and sin? Does the way a Christian deal with personal sin validate Christianity in your eyes or does it invalidate the Christian’s credibility?
It’s called [i]The Bucket List[/i], a movie about two men who endured treatment for cancer only to be told they had months to live. Together they compile a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket”. Thus begins a hilarious and poignant journey to discover what is important when life is short.
There is a real life equivalent. On September 18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University, a computer professor delivered a lecture entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” a hopeful and ironic marquee, considering that cancer was already devouring his pancreas.
Two presentations: one imagined, one all too real, for Randy Pauch died from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008, 10 months after his “Last Lecture.” Both stories reflect the sense of urgency as time is running out and the need to cut all extraneous things of life to focus on what is really important.
These same motivations are seen and felt in The Last Letter. Written by an old man on death row, written in a dark, dank, cell. Written knowing he will not escape the executioner by a last minute reprieve or by a technicality. Written knowing that his end is quickly approaching.
He writes with the urgency of a condemned man and tells his only relative, his adopted son, the most important things to remember. This is what he wrote:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
The prisoner is the Apostle Paul. The adopted son is Timothy and the Last Letter is the New Testament book of II Timothy, written shortly before Paul’s execution around 67 AD.
Today, now, as our world continues to spiral from disaster to warfare, to inhumanity, we must also proclaim the Urgently Important: that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
If you had the chance to write your Last Letter, who would you address it to? What would you tell them?
“99¢ refills forever!” That’s what the ad for one restaurant claimed. Seemed like a pretty good deal, so I went ahead and bought one of the special cups from the promotion. Once I had the cup in my hand, I noticed some small letters along the side of the cup: “Promotion may be changed or cancelled at any time.” Wait a minute! What happened to “forever”? Apparently forever can be changed or cancelled at any time. Not only with soft drinks, of course. How many pledges to “love forever” fall by the wayside? Does anyone really expect that everyone who claims to be “best friends forever” will remain lifelong friends? When pop singers sing about loving someone “till the end of time,” we know that statement is merely poetic license. In today’s world, “forever” just isn’t what it used to be. At best, forever means “a really long time.”
So when does “forever” mean “through all of eternity”? When God is doing the talking. God can speak confidently about eternity because he has always existed and always will. If a human being wants to promise me something “forever,” I take it with a grain of salt. That person won’t live forever, so they won’t be around to make good on their promise.
When God speaks of forever, he can do so because he doesn’t change. His essential nature will always be the same. The local restaurant doesn’t know what can happen in the future, so they protect their offer with an escape clause. God needs no escape clause. His promises don’t carry fine print. He will always be around to fulfill his promises, and he will never change.
When Jesus was on earth, he made the statement: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Centuries before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). What God has promised us, we can believe. When he speaks of forever, we don’t have to worry about changes or cancellations. The apostle Paul wrote: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). That’s a promise we can believe in.
If you’re not confident about forever or have doubts about God and his promises, I’d like to talk to you about your relationship with him. Just leave a comment.
Grace and peace,
Today is an exciting day for me: my luggage returned from Africa! I know the theory about traveling and luggage. Your luggage is supposed to make the trip with you. In my experience it usually does not work. Last year my luggage arrived in Africa the day after I left for a preaching trip into the villages. This year it arrived with me, but did not come home with me. One week after arrival, the last piece straggled home. I admit that I do not have much faith in the process. I work on the assumption that I will never see my bag again once I check them at the counter.
For me, the whole exercise is fraught with frustration and low expectations. I hope my luggage arrives. I just have no confidence that it will. The airlines assure me that it will, others have told me that it will, and I certainly want it to arrive safely. And I should confess that my luggage has always shown up eventually. But that still does not keep me from being an unhappy traveler.
That is how some of us approach our journey to heaven. We want to get there, we hope to get there, we know the theory about getting there, and we may even think others can get there. We just have a hard time believing it. So we become uncertain and unhappy travelers through this world — exactly the opposite of what Jesus intended.
Jesus is a story of good news and joy. He came so we could know that we will live forever. He expects our lives to be full of joy and peace. The hope he gives is an assurance based on real expectations. It is not the hope of maybes, wishes, and doubts. We can know that we are saved and that we will live forever.
So what do you think? Do you know you are saved? How do you know? If you are not sure, what keeps you from that assurance?
When I was a teenager some friends and I would frequently get together on a weekend night to go camping. My grandparents have some property not far from my hometown that my family calls “The Farm”. I can recall one particular camping trip to The Farm when I made a big mistake. My friends and I gathered up some wood to keep the fire lit and for cooking breakfast the next morning. I borrowed my grandfather’s hatchet to help out with breaking up some of the fallen tree limbs. Unintentionally I ended up breaking the hatchet’s handle as well.
In a moment of panic I made a poor decision to cover-up the incident by tossing the handle into the hot fire and the hatchet head in the nearby pond. It wasn’t long after that my grandfather approached me wondering what had happened to the hatchet he let me borrow. I was caught. I mustered up the courage to confess what I had done. I felt awful for letting him down.
I told him I wanted to replace the hatchet with a new one. It was the least I could do. That’s when he shared with me that the hatchet was priceless. It had been passed down to him from his grandfather many years ago. I was willing to do anything to rectify my relationship with him but nothing could replace what I had taken. I was heartbroken.
Thankfully I have a merciful grandfather, he forgave me for what I had done and continued loving me. He simply asked that I learn a lesson in honesty and responsibility.
Paul, a follower of Jesus, wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). In other words, since we recognize that God has shown us mercy through the death of his son, Jesus, let’s offer our lives to him.
There’s no way I can replace my grandfather’s hatchet. It’s even more impossible to repay my debt to God for his deep mercy in my life. All he asks for is my heart and a committed life lived for him. That’s doable!
How about you? Have you accepted God’s mercy in your life? What does God’s mercy mean to you?