Archive for September, 2011
I did not wake up in a cold sweat. It was more of a hot sweat. Kicking the covers off, I went to see what the Air Conditioner thermostat was set on. It said 72 degrees. Then I noticed the temperature register. It was at 82. Time for panic. We were living in Texas in the middle of a record string of days with temperatures over 100 degrees. And now the air conditioner was not working. We were not the only ones among our friends and neighbors to suffer from the heat. Civil authorities were issuing constant warnings for the elderly to be aware of the dangers. Pets, construction workers, and athletes were all recipients of special concern.
Jokes about hell were rampant. Messages were posted for Satan to come retrieve his residence. The phrase “hotter than hell” was used often. People would even joke about needing to go to church if this is what hell was going to be like. The outbreak of wildfires across the state contributed to the jokes about hell. And every one of them was missing the point. It wasn’t just that the heat and fire here cannot really compare at all to what the reality of hell will be. It is that the heat and fire are not the worst part of hell.
The most frightening part of hell is that we will be separated from God forever. Our rebellion against God – our sin – has separated us from God. He is perfect and holy. Sin cannot exist is His presence. Yet He loves us so much that He could not stand the thought of us being out of His presence. So He sent His only Son to this earth to do what we could not. His Son came and lived a holy life here. He did what He should do and never did what He should not have done. He was perfect and holy. And then He died to pay for our sins. So that by sharing in His death we could be restored to relationship with God.
God fixed it so that we could live forever in His holy presence. Unholy people can be made holy by the gift of Jesus. Believe in Him and live with God forever. Choose not to believe and be separated from God forever. That is that scariest part of hell. God has fixed the problem with hell by offering His Son. Believe it. It is the best news you will ever hear.
He asked it! It was a startling question for a preacher to make to our sophisticated and technologically advanced congregation. I admired his courage and wondered if he would be marginalized for being “out of touch” with the 21st century. He asked something like this:
“We are connected to our iPhones, iPads, iTouch, iTunes, iMac, iChat, but
have we lost the connection to the I AM?”
“I am your shield, your exceeding great reward.”
“I am Almighty God, walk before me and be blameless.”
“I am the God of your father Abraham…for I am with you.”
“I am the Lord, that is My name.”
“For I am God and there is no other, I am God and there is none like Me.”
“I am who I AM, thus you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.”
“I am with you.”
“I am merciful.”
“I am the living bread which came down from Heaven.”
“I am from Him and He sent me.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the door.”
“I am the good shepherd.”
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
“I am Jesus….”
So the question awaits your answer. Are you more connected to your idevice or the I AM?
If so what can you and I do about that? Or should we?
There’s an amazing story about Jesus and a man named Jairus. Jairus was a religious leader, one of the rulers of the Jewish synagogue. At that time, that would have made him unlikely to go see someone like Jesus. But Jairus went.
He went because his daughter was very sick. He went because he was desperate. He went because he considered Jesus to be his only hope.
Jairus was able to convince Jesus to come to his house. But while they were on the way, someone came with terrible news: Jairus’ daughter was dead. All hope was now gone. Or so Jairus must have thought.
But Jesus thought otherwise. He said to the grieving father: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:50)
When they arrived at Jairus’ house, people were standing outside, crying. Jesus told them: “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, because everyone knew she was dead.
Except Jesus. That is, he knew she was dead. But he also knew that she wouldn’t stay that way. Jesus went to the girl, took her by the hand, and told her to get up. And the young girl did!
It’s a beautiful story. As a father, I guess I hear it differently than I once did. I can imagine if my daughter were desperately ill, how hopeless I would feel. And I don’t even want to try and imagine how I would feel if she passed away.
But I know that Jesus’ words would ring in my ears: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
More than 80 times in the Bible, people are told “Don’t be afraid.” Fear is a common element of our human condition. And there’s probably no greater fear than the fear of death. One New Testament writer wrote that Jesus came to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:15)
As we find ourselves facing the imminent death of someone we love or even our own death, that’s the time we need to hear Jesus’ words: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Because even when the worst happens, Jesus can say, “They’re not dead but asleep.” He is able to take even the dead by the hand and wake them up. If we only believe.
Don’t be afraid. Just believe.
We had been talking about Jesus when he asked me this question. At first, I thought he wanted to know what to do to become a Jesus follower. But that was not what he meant. He was concerned to know what following Jesus meant in terms of his daily lifestyle. He was convinced that Christians spent most of their time consulting a massive list of do’s and don’ts. That was his experience and he was wondering if that was how he would have to live.
I explained that being a Christian was not about following a long list of right and wrong actions. Instead, living a Christian life is about being in a relationship. The relationship with Jesus is what determines how you live your life. Christians act and think in certain ways because of our connection with a real and personal Savior. But he insisted I tell him what it meant in terms of life choices he would have to make every day. So here is what I told him. Three things.
- Do what Jesus did. Treat people the way Jesus treated them. Connect to God like Jesus did. Live like Jesus lived. Walk in his steps.
- Don’t do what Jesus did not do. Get the things out of your life that are not like Jesus. Wrong relationships, damaging attitudes, and hurtful actions. If Jesus would not be that way, don’t do it.
- Tell everyone about Jesus. Share the story of what God has done thru Jesus. Tell how he has changed your life. Invite them into a relationship with him.
That’s it. That was my list. I told him that was exactly how I thought Christians decided how to live their lives. We make a series of choices every day based on the relationship we have with Jesus.
I assured him that he would get lots of help in figuring all this out. God left a book that has lots of examples about how to do this. Christians live in community as family to help each other live this way. And God gives His people His Holy Spirit to help them live these things out.
It is really not that complicated.