Archive for August, 2014
It was going to be a big moment: the first live broadcast of a giant panda giving birth. These popular animals, considered an endangered species, have a very low birth rate in the wild; this makes captive breeding programs extremely important. The broadcast of a live birth would be an important milestone.
Then the event was cancelled. To their chagrin, the staff at the Chengdu Breeding Research Centre discovered that the female panda had apparently faked her pregnancy.
Apparently the panda had noticed that pregnant females received extra food, rooms with air conditioning, and round-the-clock pampering; she was smart enough to imitate the symptoms of pregnancy in order to receive such special treatment. Shortly after being moved to the maternity ward, the panda’s vital signs returned to normal.
If you can’t trust a panda, who can you trust?
When I was growing up in West Texas, Sunday was church day. We had “blue laws” that limited what retail business could be done on that day. And everyone was expected to go to church. In fact, it was hard to have much success in business or in politics if you weren’t seen as a churchgoer.
Times have changed. A lot of people still go to church, but a growing number don’t. Some of that reflects a decline in faith, but I’m guessing that some of it is due to a decline in faking. Since church attendance is no longer an expected behavior, a lot of those who went “just to be seen” no longer feel the need to be there.
I once heard a preacher say, “The Christian life is a simple thing to fake.” And that’s very true. Go to church on Sunday, avoid major public sins, and everyone around will consider you a fine upstanding Christian.
Everyone, that is, except God. You can fool me. You can’t fool him. The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Rather than trying to fake the Christian life, let me encourage you instead to try to live the Christian life. Give yourself completely over to God and discover the rewards that only he can give.
Faking Christianity can score points with your friends and neighbors. Living the Christian life can fill your life with purpose and meaning, giving you a powerful hope for the future.
Don’t fake it. Live it.
“Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’’” (Mark 7:15)
Outside things don’t make you clean or unclean in God’s eyes. It’s not about which foods you eat or don’t eat. It’s about your heart, and the things that come out of your heart. Fill your heart with good things, and good things will come out. And you will be clean!
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)
The world says do whatever it takes to get what you want. Even then, it does not always work. God says to ask him. We do not have because we do not ask.
“We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:11)
We don’t earn salvation. We can’t do enough good things to make God feel obligated to give us eternal life. Our salvation is by the grace of God.
Sin can bring short-term joy. It lasts until the high wears off, or the consequences come due. The long-term effects of sin far outweigh the brief flash of joy. A happy life is worth more than a brief laugh. True now, true tomorrow, and true forever.
“He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”” (2 Samuel 12:22–23)
When faced with the death of a loved one, we need to remember that nothing that we say or do can change their fate. God will judge them based on their lives, not ours. What we have to do is go forward and live in such a way that we can look forward to a happy reunion in the future. We can’t bring them back; our task is to move forward with our lives.
What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? (Isaiah 10:3)
Hard things happen in this world — things we cannot control. Disaster strikes in the form of sickness, or natural disasters, or sin. When it happens (not if, but when), to whom will you go? God is the answer.
One of the best known church songs is “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” It is one of the first church songs many children learn. The other day my wife bought a home décor sign that said: “Jesus knows me, this I love.” I do not know who it was that first thought of this new take on an old song, but it is states a profound truth. It is just as true as the way it was originally stated.
And that got me to thinking about how many stories of Jesus reveal that he knows us… and loves us anyway.
Jesus encountered a madman inhabited by a multitude of demons. It was so bad that he was called Legion. This man was angry, lonely, scarred, naked, and almost incoherent. But Jesus loved him enough that the first thing he said to him was a question about his identity. He asked him his name. Legion needed to know that Jesus knew him and loved him anyway. Jesus met a woman by a well and knew everything about her life. And her life had not turned out well for her. But he loved her enough to start a conversation with her about spiritual things. He saw a blind man for who he was – even when his followers saw the man as the basis for a religious debate. Real people that Jesus knew. And that Jesus loved.
Jesus knows us. He knows our fears, our hurts, our joys, and our deepest feelings. He knows the good… and he knows the bad. And he loves us anyway. He loves us enough to die for our bad choices, our bad actions, and our worst thoughts. I love that. I love him for that. He knows our hearts. We cannot hide anything from him. We may can hide things from each other. We can even manage to hide things from ourselves sometimes. But we cannot hide anything from Jesus.
He knows us. He loves us anyway. And I love that.
Jesus loves me, this I know. Jesus knows me, this I love. He knows you too. He loves you too.
Don’t you love that.
“Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:23–24)
The popular notion is that just about everyone, if not everyone, will be saved. Jesus never spoke in those terms. He spoke of many being called and few being chosen, of many trying to get in, but only a few finding the narrow door.
Seek out God’s truth. Make sure that you are on the straight path that will lead you where you want to go.
But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? (Psalm 50:16)
You really cannot have it both ways. You cannot speak evil with your life and God words with your lips. Get in or get out. Decide what you are going to be… then speak and live that way.