God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
"Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind."
(1 Samuel 15:19)
I'm trying to wrap my mind around what I am reading.
This Sunday we will be discussing the end, the of end of Second Peter, and at the same time we will be considering the end of the world. So as I prepare my message, I am trying to take in the words of Peter and let them soak into my heart and mind. I just can't seem to do it. It doesn't make sense.
Maybe one of the reasons for this is because the weather outside of my window is perfect: 70 degrees, a slight breeze is blowing, and I can smell a faint fragrance of lilac blowing into my office. Birds are chirping. A soft gentle sun is sending warm rays on the canopy of green leaves that shade the squirrell running underneath in the freshly cut grass. And then I read these words from Peter:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed...the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!" (2 Peter 3:10 & 12)
Am I suppossed to believe this?
It all depends on how I treat God's word. Is it the truth or just beautiful poetry that is meant to move the heart? Peter says in 3:16 that how we handle God's word makes all the difference in the world. Listen, "There are some things in them (scripture) that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to thier own destruction." In other words, be very careful how you choose to understand and teach his word. How you treat the word is how God will treat you.
For me, when God says something, it is so. Even Jesus says "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)" So before the end comes, God the Father will make sure all he ever said will be accomplished. For me, that is a certain fact. That means...
- The earth will be burned up for sure. Not annihilated, but sent fire to clean the dirt and dross off. We are moving out of our old church right now, and it is amazing how much stuff has been accumlated since 1955. There are boxes of papers and casset tapes and frames that are useless, molding and old. Why hold on to a past that does not contribute to the beauty of the future? Before heaven can come God needs to gut this place called earth, and he will do it with cleansing fire. He says...
- The heavens will melt. So we will get some new skies, new heavenly bodies. God must be really powerful if he can melt Jupiter?
- Jesus will come when we least expect him. A thief. A theif never lets you know his plans, his work is meant to be discreet, he wants to surprise us.
So, as I sit here watching a young oak leaf dance in the zephyr of a new spring day, faith asks me to wrestle with my belief about the end of all things. Are these three things really going to take place? From my modern American mind I can't buy it. I have a track meet to go to today, some Netflix series I have wanted to watch, a Memorial Day weekend to enjoy. I can't worry or bother with fire, death and the final judgment of all mankind. God can't melt the Milky Way, can he? It is too mentally overwhelming to grasp.
BUT IS IT TRUE?
The best way for me to answer this is to look back in history, when days were darker, and humanity was really suffering for the wages of their sin. I think that is why World War 2 fascinates, because the reality of the carnage makes God's promises more dreadful and realistic. From 1941 to 1945 God stayed his hand, he let the dam of sin break out in real time. Man was, for a short time, given what they collectively deserved. He definately had people's attention through the judgment of Romans 1:24 when "God gave them over to their passions, desires, lusts and hatred." But on a calm spring day it is easy to laugh the seriousness of his word off. Especially when the judgment that is to come is more direct, not just giving man over, but sending consuming fire on the deeds of all mankind. He will expose our works for what they are.
Listen to Zephaniah 1:14-18, and try to believe this, let faith enhance your imagination, stay silent, close your mouth, and listen...
The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.
I will bring distress on mankind,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold
shall be able to deliver them
on the day of the wrath of the Lord.
In the fire of his jealousy,
all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
For the life of me, I can't take this in. But faith tells me it is true. How do I preach this? How do we consider the end as we get ready to go camping, and many people preparing to engage in secret sins over the three day weekend? How does this make sense in a culture that goes to Las Vegas to get lost? Does God even have the right to spoil our fun with such serious talk?
It all depends on how we answer one singular question: Will the New Heavens and New Earth really be that good? "But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (3:13) Ah, righteousness. Clean. Pure. People who actually love and don't break the hearts of others. No more lies, no more deciet. My bones won't ache anymore!
One last thing: I try to imagine how the reader of this blog will take my writing. Probably the same way I normally read the bible, with a yawn, a smirk and rolling of the eyes. I am too important and have too many important things to worry about to take God serious. May God help me.
My three neighbors and I were terribly bored one summer, so we decided to box. We didn't have gloves, but we did have striped white tube socks that we took off and used for boxing gloves. So there we stood, in our bare feet on the green grass of our neighbors lawn and we began to box.
The two oldest kids decided to go first, Jim and Mike. Mike was wirey and fast, but Jim was a big, strong, muscular athlete. After they put their socks on over their hands and arms they faced each other with fists ready in fighting position. The rest of us watched egging them on. One kid not in the match gave the countdown, "Ready, set, fight!" Jim and Mike circled each other and Mike took the first swing hitting Jim right on the chest. It landed softly causing Jim to laugh, "Is that all you got?" Mike swung again hitting Jim on the arm. Again, resulting in laughter. Mike circled around Jim taking swing after swing, landing one here and another one there, but all Jim could do was smile and giggle.
And then after allowing a few more punches, Jim wound up and swung a large righthanded roundhouse hitting Mike square in the face. Splat! Jim's fist landed on Mike's nose causing it to gush a red river of blood. Mike dropped his hands down and said, "No more, I am finished. Jim punches too hard." Jim said, "Anyone else want to box me?" There were no takers, and that was the end of boxing with socks on in the backyard.
I feel like my words of late have been landing on the hearts and minds of people like a flurry of Mike's soft punches landing on Jim's chest. A lot bluster and fuss but no power. I work hard to make my words land hard, I try to use interesting illustrations, or while in my office during counseling sessions I try to use logic to make a point, or even with my kids I try to be passionate and compelling with my reasons for godly living. But I feel like my words have been landing like Mike's punches. A lot of bluster and fuss but no power.
It is easy to give advice, or great counseling or well crafted sermons that may even draw some laughter and tears - - but life-change is a different matter altogether. I don't want my audience to merely listen, or laugh, I want people, who after they hear my words, they want to quit fighting. I wish my words landed like JIm's fists. Where warnings caused repentence, and promises resulted in faith.
Maybe Zechariah was right after all, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts." (Zech. 4:6)
Does change in life come from good arguments and find sound sermons, or the Spirit of God? Does repentance occur because someone gets mad? I wish I could talk people into heaven and right living. I wish my passionate pleading could stop someone from sinning. But mere human words are like a small fist in sock, nothing too impressive nor powerful.
I want to see some bloody noses!
"Eureka! That's It!!!" (I found a piece of the Gospel puzzle that has been hiding from me...and I'll bet it has been hiding from you too!)
"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD."
(2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
It was a rainy summer afternoon, large drops of water were softly beating on the window pane, distant thunder was rumbling and tumbling, and puddles on the pavement were growing large, I remember it well. I couldn't go outside to play with my friends and all the baseball games were cancelled because the fields were muddy, so I was bored. "Chris, why don't you read a book or put together a 1,000 piece puzzle?" My mom always had a 101 boring ways for a 11 year old kid to not be bored. I definately didn't want to read a book, so why not try a puzzle?
I went to our game closet where we had a large stack of well used game boxes sitting one on top of another: "LIFE", "Monopoly", "RISK", "Sorry!" and I also found sitting on the bottom of the closet about 10 assorted puzzles. I took my mom's advice and picked a puzzle that had a nice mountain scene with a pristine blue lake and a field of wild flowers rolling gently up the mountain's slopes. I went to our large living room table and poured out the pieces, spreading them flat across the wooden surface. I then set to work: look for the flat edges, seperate by color, and use the picture as a guide as I started fitting and attaching piece by piece.
There is something calming about sitting in a room by yourself on a rainy day doing a mindless task lost in your thoughts. I miss those simpler days, as my dad would say, "Sometimes you need to find a way to iron the wrinkles out of your mind." Well putting that puzzle togther sure did the trick. All in all it took me about 3 hours for the picture to come together, the mountain formed the fastest, than the field of flowers and the last to be put together was the lake because each blue puzzle piece looked the same. Eventually my patience was rewarded, the lake was coming together. But to my astonishment and horror, two lousy pieces were missing. Two lousy pieces! Arggh, I needed to find those pieces to finish the puzzle. You can't be content when pieces are missing. Everyone knows that.
I went on a life or death hunt, "Where are those pieces?" I searched the living room carpet. Nothing! I followed my path through the kitchen to the game closet. Nothing! I looked down my shirt, in my pants, under the chair, in the bathroom, by the snack pantry, in the cat litter. Nothing! I was desperate.
My mom told me to just let it go and put it away because I finished most of it. I should be happy with that. But I couldn't. I left the puzzle with the two missing pieces on the table and I made sure my sisters didn't wreck it. There is sat for the rest of the day, I had to find those pieces. Believe it or not, the next day, was another rainy day, I went to the closet to get a game for my sisters and I to play, and there in the bottom of the closet, sitting silently in a dark corner, were the missing pieces! Two blue pieces, I found them, and in joy I ran to the dining room table and put them in their proper places to complete the picture. I did it, it was finished! I told my mom and made her come into the room to see, and sure enough the picture was complete. I was happy. No one else cared, especially my sisters. But I was happy.
Two days ago I found some more missing pieces that have been missing my whole life. It probably won't sound like much to you, but I cannot tell you how happy I am to finally find them. These two pieces concern the Gospel.
I have been studying the Gospel most of my adult life, the picture on the box for me is clear, I get it. I know the Gospel means "Good News." I know the Gospel is about the life, death and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). I know the Gospel "is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. (Romans 1:16)" I get it, I have sold my life to it. But like the puzzle I put together as a kid, there were a couple pieces missing that I have recently found which has made the Gospel more complete for me. To be honest, there will always be pieces missing because full knowledge of the greatest subject is never fully attainable on this side of eternity. But I did find two pieces that have really helped me go deeper and understand more fully why the Gospel is so important for every person on earth. I will tell you how I found them and then I will tell you what they are.
(1) How I found the missing pieces: My comrade and colleague, Jared Doty, has been hounding me to read a book called, "The Whole Christ" by Sinclair B. Ferguson. I didn't want to because it has a dull green cover, and I can barely pronounce the author's name. It sounded boring, I thought to myself "I would rather put together a 1,000 piece puzzle than read that book." He kept telling me, "Chris, you will love it." He even picked me up a free copy of it at the T4G Pastor's Conference he went to last month. So I knew sooner or later I would have to give in and read it. Last weekend I gave in and started to read it. All I can say is "Wow!" I wish that book was written when I first became a pastor, it is terrific, profound, clear and it contains two missing puzzle pieces I have been looking for my whole life.
(2) The Two Pieces: Before I tell you what these pieces are, I must admit that I always knew this. But the way Sinclair Ferguson put it, the pieces became clear and they helped me put the Gospel message into more of a complete integrated whole. You may be like my sisters and not be too impressed with what I found, but if you listen closely, I think they will blow your mind away like they did mine.
Piece One: IT ALL STARTS IN THE GARDEN
We must start at the very beginning. I learned that as a kid from "The Sound of Music." And likewise, with the Gospel, we must start in the beginning, the Garden of Eden. You may be saying, "Yeah, yeah, I know what you are going to say, 'Adam sinned, so did all of mankind in his failure." Theologians call this the 'Federal Headship of Adam', which teaches we are all sinners because Adam represented all of us, and when he failed, we all failed. Romans 5:12-14 makes this abundantly clear. That is true, but it is not this truth of Adam's sin that Sinclair points out; but rather it is the nature of his sin. Understanding this small insight can make all the difference in the world. Let me show you what I mean (Page 68-69 of "The Whole Christ"):
"The Lord had given Adam and Eve an entire cosmos of good gifts to enjoy. In turn he provided them with a single 'positive' law. They were to show thier love for him by refusing to eat the fruit of only one tree, on the basis that their loving Father said so, and that whatever he commanded must be for their good. The lie by which the Serpent deceived Eve was enshrined in the double suggestion that
1) this Father was in fact restrictive, self-absorved, and selfish since he would not let them eat from any of the trees, and 2) his promise of death if they were disobedient was simply false.
Thus the lie was an assault on both God's generosity and his integrity. Neither his character nor his words were to be trusted. This, in fact, is the lie that sinners have believed ever since - the lie of the not-to-be-trusted-because-he-does-not-love-me-false-Father."
You must let that quote sink in. Because when it did for me, the Gospel came into clearer focus. Even though I generally knew this, Sinclair made it incredibly clear. The main problem with man is we don't trust the person of God, especially his "GENEROSITY" and his "INTEGRITY." Or you could say this, the reason people don't follow God is because they don't really believe he is "FOR THEM." We think when he asks us to obey he is holding stuff back from us. At first, every human actually believes his commands are meant to make our lives miserable, not abounding in his generous wealth of joy. But the reverse is true, his commands are born from his kindness and generosity.
With that understanding, some verses in the New Testament now seem to carry more potency and power. Like 2 Corinthians 4:4, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ." What does Satan blind us to: God's generosity and integrity.
Look at Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Look at the second part of that verse, it is all about God's generosity and intergrity. Faith trusts that his word is true, and believes God rewards. A rewarding God is a generous God!
Piece Two: THE GOSPEL, JESUS ON THE CROSS, IS ABOUT GENEROSITY AND INTEGRITY
Generosity is all about God giving freely and abundantly before we ever did anything to earn it. For instance, Sinclair makes a big distinction in the way some people present the Gospel. Does God love me because Christ died for me, or did Christ die for me because God loves me? At first this seems like a matter of semantics, but it is a crucial thing to get straight in your mind.
If God loves me because Christ died for me then that means, at the core of my heart, I cannot really be sure that God loved me unconditionally. Something needed to be done for God to love me. Again, like the Serpent in the Garden, it places doubt on his generosity. I once knew a man who said, "I know that God says a man is saved if he believed the Gospel. I believed the Gospel, but I am not sure God really wants me. Yes, he must allow me into heaven because of his word, but I still wonder if he wants me because of his love?" Do you hear him doubt God's character? He may believe, but he is not believing in God's goodness. I wonder if then this is true belief? The full truth is God first loved me, so in response to that love he sent his Son to save me. And then when I truly believe he is for me, and is generous, I will be able to trust.
So you see, his generosity, also known as grace, is the basis of man trusting in God's character. People will only truly believe when they accept that God is first and foremost generous.
Why this Matters?
I think people sin because they believe if they don't sin God will hold back the good they perceive to be in the sin. Adam ate the fruit because he was led to believe that by not eating he was missing out on something. As John Piper once said, "Faith is a battle between the Promises of God and the Promises of Sin." A sinner believes the promises of sin are better than the promises of God. Or sinning is the only way to get what God is holding back from me. So when a person sins they are believing God is not generous.
The Gospel displayed in a the "Son who is Given" reveals a generosity that exceeds anything we could ever imagine. How do I know God is generous? He sent his Son to die. He gave everything he had for me. How do I know I can trust his word? Because for thousands of years he prophesied that he would send his Son to die. Jesus himself, in the book of Luke, said three times "that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
The cross proclaims both God's generosity and integrity. This truth for me is like finding two small puzzle pieces that were lost in the closet corner. They may not revolutionize my faith, but they sure do make understanding the Gospel more full. I feel like I did on the rainy day in summer. Joy!
“If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.”
I love movies! But honestly, who doesn’t?
Recently I had a discussion with a friend concerning some good movies they have recently watched, and they said to me, “Hey, you were raised in the Roman Catholic Church, have you seen the movie ‘Spotlight’? I think you would find it interesting?” I never heard of it so I asked them to describe for me the plot:
“Some hard-nosed reporters from the Boston Globe undercovered a major pedophilia problem in the Boston diocese and it depicts how they eventually were able to shine a light on years of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Church officials covered up these sick actions by the priesthood for decades by shuffling alleged offenders among parishes. Thier research and subsequent stories won them not only a Pulitzer Prize but many abusive priests were defrocked and even sent to prison.”
I decided to watch the trailer. It has some very famous actors portraying real life reporters, and it seemed to be very well made. It definitely grabbed my interest. I then wanted to see how close to the truth the movie was so I did some research myself online. What I found is horrifying:
The most distressing personal story for me centered on the deceased priest, Father John Geoghan. One article says, “Over a 30-year career in six parishes, Geoghan was accused of sexual abuse involving more than 130 boys, including rape, molestation, assault and battery.” The real tragedy in his case is that his superior, Cardinal Bernard Law, a Boston Archbishop, knew everything about this man and kept sending him to new parishes free to victimize more boys. One account says that after Father Geoghan received psychological treatment the counselor warned Cardinal Law that Geoghan was probably not fully cured and would more than likely abuse more boys. And yet, Cardinal Law once again had him reassigned to a new parish not telling a soul that a child predator was set loose to hunt down more innocents.
After all the findings and years of court proceedings the case of Father John Goeghan cost the Boston Archdiocese over 10 million dollars to be paid in damages to 86 of Goeghan’s victims. What a horrific story.
One of the last articles that really caught my attention detailed the life of Cardinal Law after his recent passing in December of 2017. It is a strange article, because for much of it Cardinal Law is praised:
Near the end of the article was this quote: “There's going to be a lot of good," the historian said, "interred with his bones."
And then the article said this, “Although not bearing sole responsibility for the wrongdoing, Law, had direct knowledge of the scope, duration and severity of the crisis experienced by children in the Archdiocese; he participated directly in crucial decisions concerning the assignment of abusive priests, decisions that typically increased the risk to children...the mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable."
How should we feel about Cardinal Law?
Does his goodness cancel out his penchant for turning a blind eye? Hey, he denounced racism, he was a social justice warrior, he dedicated himself to the church - - he did good! Yeah, but what if your son was one who was caught in Goeghan’s bedroom and Law knew about and said nothing? How would you feel about it?
Some people will see a person like Cardinal Law and conclude that people in general are all complicated. While he did allow some terrible things, at least he did some good in the world that we can celebrate. Don’t be so hard on the guy. Why focus on one aspect of his life when he did so much good for others, especially the marginalized and left behind? But again, ask yourself, what if your son was one who was caught in Goeghan’s bedroom because of Law’s silence? Hidden in the book of Leviticus is this startling statement, “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.” (Lev. 5:1)
Here is my point: there are some crimes that cannot be considered morally equivalent. Some trespasses are so heinous that to try to downplay them or ignore them by citing equal acts of goodness and social justice is just plain sick. Allowing a man to continue abusing boys for his own pleasure must not be wiped away by saying, “I know Cardinal Law kept quiet, but at least he wasn’t a racist, or he tried to help the poor get some of their debt forgiven.” This to me is the problem with progressive thinking - - doing social good has been made equivalent and even more righteous than true righteousness.
Did you know it is easy to fight for the poor with your mouth? It is easy to say you are not a racist, or make some cool stance for the transgendered. Yes we should do what we can to make this world fair, equal and civil, but when you see a real evil and say nothing, you will be held responsible.
In my mind, murder is even worse than abuse and molestation. Abortion really is that bad. Let’s not downplay it because we want to win politically. It is sick. If you don't think it is, how would you like to have your life terminated in the womb? Well a unborn baby has no conscience, no ability to think, what is the big deal? That is like saying a young boy in the hands of a sick priest is just another altar boy fulfilling his service for the Lord. Try saying that to the boy's mother. The problem with the unborn is the mother is often allowing the killing.
Our quest to win politics has snuffed out our outrage at true acts of sin. It should make us sick.
“Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.”
What will happen when God wakes up?
Even though God is Sovereign and he daily puts our lives in his hand, he sometimes acts like he is sleeping. He remains quiet. He lets people be. He lets fools be fools.
But what will happen when he wakes up?
I was asking this because in my reading of Psalm 78, there is a point when God gets fed up and as verse 65 puts it, “He will arise like a warrior who was sleeping heavy after a night of drinking.” Have you ever seen a big guy with a hangover? Let me put it this way, they are not nice...at all.
How do you think God feels about our President paying off a porn star, and we are discussing it like it is not big deal? I think God is ashamed of both sides of the political spectrum: On one side they will defend the President no matter what he does, and the other side they will throw their lot in with a porn star just because they hate the President so much.
How do you think God feels about America’s descent into ever deeper sexual deviancy? The mind of humanity is so twisted. I just read a story about a gay man with HIV who purposely had unprotected sex with 20 other men in order to spread the infection...sick! Or producers at the Cannes film festival who boast about movies showing extreme sexual situations in fine detail and yet they are the ones who parade around with #metoo protestors who hate the objectification of women. Which is it?
How do you think God feels about the public discourse on race, guns, war, adultery and every other act of rebellion under the sun?
What will happen when he wakes up?
If you want to consider the Bible's answer read Psalm 78:66. Does this not move you in the least bit?
It does me.
Are Americans sports obsessed? Yes.
Even though the vast majority of my readers are more than likely sick of sports talk and loathe driving their kids to practice, I want to talk about sports anyway. And my question for today’s post is this, “If Jesus played sports which sport would he choose?”
A quick hint at my final answer before we start… “Give Blood, Play…”
I want to suggest three possible sports that I think include good representative generalities of Christianity, as it is currently being played and how we should being playing it. While there are thousands to pick from not all sports are conducive for metaphorical purposes. For instance, I don’t think Jesus would choose the sport curling because not only would it be difficult for a middle eastern man to find a good ice rink to play on in Nazareth, but it does not offer enough characteristics to apply to general human behavior. Nor will I choose sports like ping-pong, luging, synchronized swimming, quidditch or croquet. While fun, they are too limited and particular.
I have chosen three to build my comparison.
GOLF: this is the sport that best represents American Christianity, but Jesus would have nothing to do with it. Golf is all about individual scores. Golf is about being alone in a place of beauty. Golf is about the clubhouse and drinking a few beers after 18 holes. If that doesn’t describe the church in America and how people view spirituality, I don't know what does? Somehow we have turned Christianity into a game about self and how good my walk with Jesus is? Christians are always on the lookout for a beautiful and pleasant experience with God. If I sin, give me a mulligan. But even if I have a bad game, it is ok, the clubhouse is waiting to talk over scores with my buddies. A good friend will let you fudge the numbers if you need to, but what matters most is if I had an enjoyable round of golf. If not, better luck next time. I think Jesus would get bored with golf, too individualistic, too self centered, too detached from the brokenness of this fallen world. He came to seek and save the lost not spend most of his time alone selfishly working on his relationship with his Father. He could have just stayed up in heaven if he wanted to do that. Golf is the ideal me, myself and I sport...perfect for squeaky clean Sunday for an hour Christianity.
TRACK: there is good biblical support to say that Jesus would choose track, especially the relays. Paul talks about running the race in Hebrews 12, or in 1 Corinthians 9 to run the race to get the prize. Track takes hard work, effort, and a strong desire to win. I even like the concept of being part of a team, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2, “And the things you have learned entrust or hand them off to reliable men…” It is like handing off a baton. But track is still a bit too clean, and detached from the messiness that is life. Track does involve sweat, but the blood and tears that Jesus lived and died with are not a main part of the sport. Americans are also good at short bursts of speed, we like the sprints, but long distance is too much. Jesus went all the way, carrying the load of pain and guilt for all of us. I like the analogy of track, but I think there is one better.
RUGBY: Rugby did not exist during the time of the New Testament writings, but you can find it everywhere in scripture. Let me first describe the sport for you and then I will point out some verses. First and foremost rugby is a sport that requires closeness to your teammates, especially in the scrum. You are leaning on each other, grabbing each other in sometimes embarrassing places, sharing blood, smearing sweat and falling in the dirt and mud together. No one playing rugby is that pretty, you can't put on a good face when it is getting pulled and punched. And everyone is needed to succeed. The opponent you play wants to hurt you, so the stakes are high. You must help motivate each other. There also is no toleration for foul play on the rugby team. If you take a cheapshot at the other team or a teammate you will be held accountable for it. And boy do they know how to party after the game! You don't think these characteristics of rugby are biblical? Check this out:
And oh yes, Christians are going to party! Read Isaiah 25:6-9 if you doubt me!
As I was thinking through this, I know alot of you golfers out there may feel a little betrayed, “Aren’t all good pastors supposed to love golf?” You know, the only way I think golf would be truly reflective of life is if Satan designed a course to play on. Then I think it might be more interesting and accurate to this world we live in. Could you imagine his sulfur sandtraps, fire and brimstone water hazards or hot coaled putting oranges? Now if that were to happen, I may reconsider my sports assessment. But as it stands, all I can say is how I started this post,
“Give Blood, Play Rugby!!!!”
I have taken a few minutes out from working on my sermon to write this post. I had to do it.
I was looking over my books on my shelf to find a quote and I noticed something that I never saw before. Two books with two completely different worldviews were leaning against each other. They have been there for years and I never saw it before.
One book is not hard to miss because on the cover is smiling Joel Osteen. He is dressed up in a nice blue blazer, bright white teeth gleeming and his glamour shots hair cut is styled perfectly. The cover of the book reads, "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential." It is a book about positivity, harnessing success, and finding fulfillment in life. John C. Maxwell on the back cover writes, "Everybody will find something useful in this wonderful book." Nice, nice, nice.... all is nice.
The other book that was leaning against it is a book that is easy to miss. The fonts are not the best, the picture is blurry and the writer has a funny name, Wurmbrand. There is nothing truly compelling about the book's cover. And the title is the worst, "Tortured for Christ." The book is all about how Richard Wurmbrand was placed in Romanian prisons for over 14 years because of his dedication to Christ. The Communists hated his faith and he suffered for it. On the back of this book it reads, "Months of solitary confinement, years of periodic physical torture, constant suffering from hunger and cold, the anguish of brainwashing and mental cruelty." Horrible, horrible, horrible...all is horrible.
So which way is it? What is the real Christian worldview, nice or horrible? I see no real way of bringing these two accounts together?
The nice one has become a best seller, millions of copies sold! The horrible one has inspired thousands to cherish their faith. One makes us happy, one makes us hungry for Jesus to come back. I find it is so much easier to fall into the smiling trap of Joel Osteen's message: "You can have anything you want when you have God." We can have happiness, ease, comfort, romance and money. I find Joel's message, though easy, is very selfish and destructive. It is also not biblical: come to God so you can get what you want.
The other message is hard. God is worth the pain of waiting. God is worth the hatred of the world. God is worth it. This message, is biblical.
I once heard a story of a young man who went to propose to his fiance'. He had saved up for a large diamond ring. He had the night set up perfectly: he would pick her up, take her to dinner and then propose to her on one knee at her favorite fancy restaurant. It was going to be a surprise!
As he drove up to her house he had the ring box in his front coat pocket. He looked great. Dashed on some cologne, and pulled up to her house excited as ever. As he honked the horn she came running out to get into the passenger seat, not knowing that this was the night he was going to propose. She looked fantastic!
As she sat down he couldn't stop smiling. She said, "What is it? I know something is up?" And in his excitement he took out the ring and proposed right on the spot! He couldn't wait. When he opened the box and she saw the gleaming diamond, she said in tears, "This is what I have always wanted!" She put it on and it fit her delicate hand perfectly. She held it up higher and said, "Isn't it wonderful? I have to go show mom." And she rushed out the car flashing it to her mom, dad and everyone else who would come see.
She then ran upstairs to her bedroom slamming the door behind her. Her boyfriend was left downstairs sitting on the couch. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes went by as he waited. Finally he went up to her room and knocked. Opening the door he said, "You ready to go, I have dinner reservations?"
She was still staring at the ring in the mirror not noticing he was at the door. He said, "You ready to go?" She looked over and said, "Oh, its you. You can go ahead without me, I have everything I want right here!" There she sat, staring at the shining jewel. Smiling.
Is Christianity about me or falling in love with God? Is it getting or is it knowing? Is it finding ease' and comfort in the moment, or worshipping God even when it is hard?
Which worldview is it? They both can't be right?
“When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.”
I needed that service last night. Good Friday. Simply remembering, no big show, just recounting the passion story. Every time the story is read and you are made to ponder, Jesus’ greatness overwhelms you.
One thing that really caught my attention last night is how Jesus doesn’t suffer fools. He didn’t come to perform for or try to please the silly curiosities of game players like Herod.
Herod was a pompous man. He was wealthy, corrupt and he was a religious poser. He had John the Baptist’s head cut off for a promise he made after a drunken dance.
When Jesus was brought to him he wanted to see a show, some miraculous sign. Jesus was a curiosity for him.
I’ll bet if Jesus would have performed he would of been set free. Jesus could have had Herod eating out of his hand, he could have healed a cripple, made the sky rain specks of gold dust, knocked everyone down with Holy Spirit power - - a first century Pentecostal revival.
But no. Jesus came for a serious purpose. He came to die so we would have peace with God. He did not come to entertain and impress the mockers, give them a good time.
Never did Jesus throw his pearls before swine. And never did Jesus veer off course from his Father’s will just so people would like him.
He was about the business of important things. He procured forgiveness for us all. He came to conquer death.
Why didn’t Jesus wait 2,000 more years when technology could have transmitted his miracles and messages via YouTube? He could have been a rockstar, writing songs that packed large auditoriums? He could have won The Voice or American Idol and then the world would have really been impressed?
He didn’t do those things because he is not a game player. He doesn’t need fame, riches or popularity. He doesn’t even need smiling Joel Osteen to promote him.
You are the one who needs him. You need his substitutionary payment, you need to be saved from hell even if The Pope doesn’t believe in it anymore. There are far more important things than being happy, entertained and impressed. There is eternity at stake.
When he comes back the real show will begin. The one we have all been waiting for. The pomp and circumstances of his Kingdom will arrive. The brightness of his glory will overtake and dispel all the shadows of the earth. Sin will be abolished and obliterated.
But until that day comes we as the church need to quit playing games, trying to impress the world by their standards. When we are mocked by fools we need to remain quiet. When they want a bigger and better show we need to stop trying so hard.
We need to tell people the simple gospel message through relationships. Person to person. We need to help people find peace with a holy God.
I find the more sincere we are the more people will listen. We should quit trying to compete just to impress the important. Let’s love small people again!
The one person who did nothing wrong, paid for all of my wrongs. And there are too many to count. I should be better at so much: A husband, a father, a pastor, a brother, a son. I am all of these and I fail.
As a husband I haven’t loved my wife enough. Said the wrong things at the wrong times. Sat on the couch too much and too long. Demanded many things in simmering anger.
As a father I have been lazy and lax. I haven’t taught and trained like I should. I have gotten mad when I should have listened. I can't get the years back.
As a pastor I definitely don’t pray nearly enough. I preach at times to perform. I like to be liked.
As a brother I don’t keep in contact. I slip in, wave, hug and slip out.
As a son...the list is too long.
And then I read in Psalm 69:4 one line that stops my heart. I am overwhelmed everytime I read it. It makes no sense:
“What I (Jesus) did not steal must I (Jesus) now restore?”
This is the cross. A payment for my failure. At every point I have stumbled, fell, rebelled and willfully sinned, Jesus paid for it.
It makes no sense.
Why would he do this? Why did he let me go free? I failed. I keep failing, and I always will.
The only thing I can figure is John 14:3, “I (Jesus) will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus wants to be with me.
And the cross was the only way.
It makes no sense, but I accept.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” (C. S. Lewis)
There are some thoughts that are so sublime, so lofty in scope and substance, we must keep reaching toward them in wonder. If we can grasp just a speck, a sliver of true understanding, we will be far better people for it. This particular quote by C.S. Lewis from “The Weight of Glory” is just the kind of vaunted ideal that set my heart aflame the first time I read and considered it.
Glory, what is it really? I think the best definition I have heard is that Glory is God’s beautiful heaviness that will be shared with us; we are the hidden immortals.
Immortals, kept from decay and deterioration, we will one day be shining like a star in the sky. When Jesus gave Peter, James and John a quick peek of his Glory on the mount of transfiguration it is said by Luke in 9:29, “his appearance was like a bolt of lightning.” Think on that. Stop, ponder it...we will share in it. That is why Lewis says, “There are no ordinary people...we joke with, work with, marry, snub everlasting splendors.” This is what he means - - the average Joe is not nor ever will be just average. He will be a person arrayed in lightning.
If that same average Joe was to reject the Gospel his immortality is to become a “horror.” Isaiah 66:24 says of him, “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
The greatness of Glory is juxtaposed against the ravages of condemnation. They both are possible states of existence maintained eternally for every individual who presently walks the earth.
As it is now, we see through a glass darkly.
If you are destined for Glory, someday you will walk upon this earth as a god. Both invincible, heavy, and beautiful. Charles Spurgeon once taught that when you have the strength of an immortal, you will be able to rip a tree from the soil, trunk and roots in all. If I saw you now as eternally you will be then I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you. I would be held spellbound marveling at your splendor. However, if you are destined for wrath, and you could be seen today as you will be, my heart would be ripped apart in pity over your loathsome condition. Twisted and broken, an object of scorn.
If this is to be true, which the holy scriptures confirm, Lewis is right when he says we need to take each other much more seriously than we presently do. People in general, don’t seem to matter to each other. We casually cast each other off as either a nuisance or use them as a distraction to pass the boredom of the day. People have become to us irritants or play things. We fail to consider the enormity of what future possibilities we encounter daily with each person we meet.
But let heaven in and look with eyes opened to new possibilities. Daily we are given the unique opportunity to affect the future radiance of an immortal. Or maybe through kindness and care we can help a monster heading for the terrors of hell to awaken and be rescued from himself?
Do you believe Glory will really be this heavy? Or are you wasting precious time playing around with trivial matters that mean relatively nothing? Do you really believe you are walking among gods and monsters? Or just ordinary humans?
I heard the craziest thing from a pastor two weeks ago, he said the reason we stop and look at mirrors and play with selfies is because we want to catch a glimmer of the Glory that we will be. I think he’s right. My sister would accuse me of looking at my reflection in the car window, and she was right. Each time I look at me I see something more that can be, will be. An immortal. More than just a chiseled jaw, flawless skin, I see eternal possibilities. I love how 2 Corinthians 4:16 puts it, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
That inner self is the germ of immortality. Just a seed. That soon will die, sown perishable but raised imperishable, sown mortal but raised in immortality! I can’t wait. More than ordinary.