A young man was talking to me at church on Sunday about sports. He was bewildered that people pay to watch football when all the outcomes are planned ahead of time.
This got me thinking. Our Lord knows the outcome of every play in our life. Every misstep, every mistake, every error, every foul. Every success, every friendship made, every life saved, and every victory until time ends.
Yet, He paid the price so that we can play.
Haven’t heard it put this way. I will need to internalize it and to use this.
Why are we hated? Why is it that we should be not surprised when the world turns against us?
Because Cain hated Abel. Just one verse earlier John has spoken of these two brothers and asked why one murdered the other. Cain murdered Abel “because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” Abel’s goodness exposed Cain’s badness. Abel’s righteousness convicted Cain of his unrighteousness. Abel’s love for God silently declared Cain’s disregard. Cain responded with the ultimate manifestation of hatred—he murdered his own brother.
I heard a preacher over the weekend answering questions about the LGBT community and how to reach them and love them. He, himself, lives in Boystown in Chicago. When asked on how to respond to the harsh, bigotrous, anti-Christian persecution on Facebook, which comes to anyone that stands by the Gospel, he responded with a ridiculing laugh and said that we should know better than to do this on Facebook.
A man, who lives in Boystown, going where the people are and reaching out to a community in need of Jesus laughed at people that were going to and reaching out to a community in need of Jesus online. I agreed and nodded my head with most of what he said before this statement, but then this laugh stabbed through me, a backhand across the face. Where there is an open hostility towards Christianity, a people that live in mockery of God, a people seeking meaning, us Christians ought not go?
The irony apparently is lost on him.
As an introvert, the whole approaching-those-I-don’t-know thing is very difficult. Not because I’m shy— I’m not—, but because our culture is built around extroverts. To get to any sort of real conversation, one must jump through the hoops of small talk, formalities, and fakery to seem pleasant enough to be real with. Our churches, too, seem geared towards extroverts. “Turn around and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.” “James, I don’t know you, but do you mind opening us in prayer?” “Join us Saturday for our ice cream social.” None of those seem even remotely enjoyable to me. And I’m not alone.
But where the one-on-one interaction in person is difficult, the Internet opens many of us up to be more bold, more social, more sharing. Where an extrovert shines going to Boystown, the introvert shines going on Facebook. Both locations need Jesus. Both places are hostile towards Christianity and God. Both are seeking purpose and meaning. So why is my mission field wrong?
Over the last couple months this blog has been lighter on original content, largely because of our move to St. Louis. Even with a lighter publishing schedule, I have been publishing a lot of links and videos on grim matters and on matters of hope. My heart has been broken time and again over the last couple months as information has come out about the practices of Planned Parenthood. In these dark times, we must keep our eyes on the Cross.
Hope. Many people are seeking it. Some Christians have lost it. The tricky thing is to recognize where you find it. Hope found in the world will always fail. Hope found in the power of the Cross, in the Blood of Jesus, in the eternal life to come will never fail. While the total depravity of our world is heavy, I find hope in the One that can overturn the sinful nature of the hearts of Man.
This for me is why I do not keep my words, my faith, the Word of God to myself. Keeping this hope, this blessèd assurance, to myself would be the greatest form of hate and selfishness. So I publish. Many will be offended. Many will unfriend me, unfollow me, or cut off all communication with me. But many more will see hope for something better than this fallen world.
In a culture that glorifies death, does any life matter? We walk around trying to make sense of the senseless, find meaning in the meaningless, peace in a war zone. Born blind and deaf, only able to scream out in the empty darkness.
This isn't how life was meant to be. You aren't made to be living for the next nap, the next weekend, the next sexual encounter, or the next high. This is death. This is meaningless.
Wake up, oh sleeper, rise from the dead!
There is a life that welcomes all to pick up their cross and follow a King not of this world. Our leaders in this world might fail to meet our expectations, but this King set our expectations for something more because He wanted us to yearn for more.
Nothing here is good enough to fulfill that yearning. You've all felt it. That need for more. A different job, more money, a different girlfriend, the latest gadget. Maybe that will make me happy. I'm sorry to spoil it for you, but none of it will work.
This world is but a glimpse of the eternal, a taste of the divine. The best steak doesn't compare to the eternal. Neither does the most amazing woman, the highest paying job, or even a secluded island with no worries. We long for the eternal.
Your King knocks. Do you hear Him? Will you get out of bed and invite Him in? Wake up.
This cold calculation is a lie. Whether embryo, fetus, baby, toddler, college student, or senior citizen, the product of a successful human conception is a human being.
But perhaps there is reason that Dr. Gunter’s lies can be perpetuated. In one way, she is right: As a culture, we fail to understand the truth about early pregnancy. The public conversation is hushed at best, leaving room for falsehoods and misconceptions. The absence of public discourse concerning early pregnancy diminishes the thing itself, leaving women confused and unprepared for the worst.
For the last day I’ve been buried in old hymns, trying to ease my heart ache. In 3 days I will be celebrating being a father for a year. My daughter, my Charm, is easily one of the best things that has happened to me. And while we are preparing to celebrate, the news is inundated with the atrocities of Planned Parenthood. With each video released, their crimes against humanity, funded by our tax dollars, becomes more clear. To say that a cloud has been over our house is an understatement.
To avoid these videos, as most of the elected Democrats are doing, would be to turn a blind eye, but to watch is gut-wrenching and makes my heart cry out.
Many of us turned to our politicians and demanded that this evil organization be defunded, while our President said that he would veto any such bill and even those that we elected into office refused to watch the videos and do anything. I’m honestly not surprised by their actions, or lack thereof. The one that we should be turning to is Jesus. Our country needs revival. Our country needs Jesus. As we remove the Bible and faith from more and more institutions, the effects of that are being felt more rapidly. Without the one that gives life, death becomes ever-present.
The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.
Coming out of a very rough and dark weekend and a hard start to the week, this article is exactly what I needed.
Leslie Newbigin said, “I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist; Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” Is Jesus irrelevant? How is wallowing in a dialectic of self-deprecation and self-pity going? Is that doing things for you? Is that doing more than Jesus has done? If so, get off this article. Get off the Internet. Go and drink and at the very least be merry, for tomorrow you die (1 Corinthians 15:32). But if you’re clawing for a grip — for something, anything — keep reading. Jesus actually changes quite a bit. Here are five things he offers.
Easily 1 Corinthians 15:32 has become a favorite verse of mine today. A kick to the gut that I needed. It’s amazing how those can come at the right time.
Life is fleeting, if one thing can be a guarantee. We all go out. Some in a blaze of glory and others as a low whisper. One way or the other, our candle gets snuffed out. And once it does, do you know for sure where you’ll stand?
In a blink, you could be gone. You may have told yourself that you had time to think about this later, but life doesn’t work that way. All it takes is a blink.
Do you know what comes next? Do you know for sure?
We all know we’re not perfect. It’s like a meter is built into us. Something tells us that we make mistakes. This conscience is real and is a gift from God. You are not perfect, but perfection is what God expects.
You may think that faith is for the old, but death does not discriminate on age. You may think religion just a list of do’s and don’ts, but that’s not the way it was supposed to be. The law is to protect us from sin. The things God considers wrong can hurt us. Disobeying these laws is sin. Disobeying God is sin. This isn’t petty, but protective.
A perfect God judges perfectly. What crimes have you committed? Have you committed adultery? Jesus said that if you look on a woman with lust, that you have committed adultery in your heart. Have you ever looked at a woman lustfully? If so, you are an adulterer. Have you ever lied? If so, you are liar. Have you ever committed murder? Jesus said that if you call you brother stupid, you’ve committed murder in your heart.
If you were judged today, what would be the verdict? You might think that your good deeds might count for something, but imagine sitting for a judge in your hometown. You murdered your brother. The evidence is stacked against you. And so you plea with the judge, “Look at my bank account, sir. I have given so much money to charity! Look at my calendar: I have given so much time to help others!” But the judge is to judge you for your crime. You killed a man. You killed your brother. What should a just judge do?
The good news, though, is that your sin can be covered. The law came with a sacrificial system. Pay your due for your sins. Count up all the sins that you have committed and pay the fine.
Is the number too large, the task to hard? You’d be right to think so, because the law was to point people to the hopelessness of our sin. It binds us, holds us down. Even if we provided sacrifice after sacrifice, we would never be free from our sin.
But your sin can be covered. A sacrifice was made. Jesus, the Son of God, came down not to extend a sword, but a hand. This is why a Christian cannot believe that multiple ways to God exist. Our sin is the problem and the only way for it to be forgive is by a sacrifice. Jesus was that sacrifice, he was that pure lamb, the first of creation. His life was without sin, he lived by the law. But the purpose of his life was to take our sin away, so at the prime of his life, the government took him before a judge, accused him of things he wasn’t guilt of, and gave him the ultimate punishment: death.
You might not believe this story. You likely have heard it before. You might think that Jesus was just a good man, but that good man said he was God, man. He claimed to be messiah, the chosen one, the Son of God and God himself. You can do the research. I have. You can read it in the Bible or you can read what historians say. No historian disagrees with Jesus’ existence. No historian disagrees with what is recorded in the Bible about him. Some question whether he was right.
But would you take the chance that he was wrong? His followers didn’t. They followed his words until their deaths, often at the hands of oppressors and aggressors. Stoned to death for disagreeing with the establishment, crucified for teaching a different message, thrown in prison on a remote island to grow old. But in the face of death, their faith seemed to grow stronger and bolder. A sane man following a lie would not die to not look like a liar. At least one would break rank. But none did. Historical accounts show that the early Christians, those that saw Jesus after he rose from the dead, lived life at the edge, never fearing death and always preaching life everlasting.
Life is fleeting.
The story is not a lie. It is no fabrication. You will die. You will face judgment. You know what the verdict is because it is written on your heart. You know that you haven’t done enough good to outweigh your crimes. Blink and life is gone.
The good news is a single choice is all it takes. Make the choice to follow Jesus today. Not later today. Right now. The Bible says all you must do is turn from your sins, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. You are not expected to come to him clean. You’ll be cleaned by him. You are not expected to have things in order. He’s got you covered.
A blink can make the difference. Don’t blink and let your life be taken away. Make the choice right now. Follow Jesus. Assurance is given to those that follow him. Your sin will be covered. The judge will look at you and see his son. He’ll see what his son did. You don’t want the alternative.