It’s All About Him


It’s easy to forget that life isn’t all about me. I would like it if it were. Everyone would cater to my every desire, worry about keeping me happy. They’d make sure they didn’t offend me, be quick to encourage me, tell me how kind or smart or talented or helpful I was.

OK, OK, you all can get up off the floor now and stop laughing.

The old saying is that babies are born into the world thinking they are the center of the universe and spend the next eighty years learning they aren’t.

Pretty true. Kids tend to think every toy they want should belong to them. When they’re hungry, it’s time to eat. When they wake up, it’s time to get up.

When we become adults, of course, we realize we need to take into consideration the “others” in our lives.

But if we stop with that realization, we are still woefully wide of the mark. Life isn’t all about me, and it isn’t even all about other people.

Why I am here–why we all are here–isn’t about us. No matter how great an impact a person has on society, how many people he helps, he will soon be gone, and another generation may not even remember his name.

I suspect when President McKinley, the twenty-fifth President of the US, was assassinated, people throughout the country thought he would never be forgotten, that his death was one of the most tragic events in the history of the US. Of course, that was before two world wars, the rise and fall of Communism, the Great Depression, Vietnam, or 9/11. Today he is little more than a footnote in history books. And he was the leader of the nation!

Men of wealth don’t fare much better. Once the names of Rockefeller and Carnage demanded the kind of respect we give Bill Gates and Steve Jobs today. Or what we once gave Steve Jobs.

The Apostle James is right about Mankind. We are just a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

How silly, then, for us to believe life is all about us?

It ought to be abundantly clear that our comfort, ease, security, happiness is transitory and cannot be the ultimate purpose of our existence since we ourselves are temporal.

Who wants to draw bucket after bucket of water to pour into the gutter? Why would we spend our time in such a futile effort?

Yet that’s what we so often do when we make life all about us. We spend our precious hours trying to shore up a sandcastle. We might even landscape and furnish it with elaborate, expensive pieces, but in the end, it all washes back out to sea.

How much better if we spend our time on what lasts!

Life, after all, is all about God, not about us. He is the Creator, and we, the creatures made in His image. We exist for His pleasure, not the other way around. We glorify Him, exalt Him, worship Him. He’s the One who is high and lifted up, whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours, whose name is above every name.

How far we have fallen, to think that we should only read the Bible or pray if we feel like it, or that we have a right to complain if in church we sing too many hymns or not enough or if we stand too long or the lighting is too low or too bright.

If life is not about us, worship is certainly not about us either. How different our days would be if we remembered that we exist for God; in fact, life, creation, all He made, exists for Him.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in June 2012.

Published in: on June 23, 2017 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Warnings Or Threats


Jesus Christ came to seek and to save. That cost Him His life. But Scripture also says He gave us an example to follow. Peter said it clearly in his first letter.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24)

So Christ is our model. When he was condemned, censured, abused, attacked, He didn’t sling invectives back. While he was beaten bloody, while he hung dying, He didn’t curse those who were responsible. He didn’t threaten them with Hell, and surely He could have.

I started thinking about threats in the context of warning sinners about their eternal destiny if they don’t repent.

I’ve said before that part of a Christian’s responsibility is to tell people the truth about what their headed towards. How else can they turn from the error of their ways if they haven’t heard that their ways are leading to destruction?

I’ve likened the Christian’s role to that of an emergency worker warning traffic that up ahead the bridge is out. They can’t slow down and carefully easy their way forward. No, the bridge is gone! If they continue down the road, they will crash. No other option. They must either turn around or die.

Is that a threat?

I know some atheists think so. They look at Christians as gleeful in their pronouncements of doom.

The truth is, there’s a difference between warning someone of impending disaster and threatening someone with it. In the first case, the person is trying to prevent harm and in the second, he is calling it down on another’s head.

Sadly, I believe the Christian’s job to proclaim the truth about God’s justice is much harder as a result of a misguided group of people professing Christ but listening to false teaching—five years ago it was the Westboro Baptist folks and now it’s many in the alt-right.

Five years ago the Westboro Baptist group was in the news here in SoCal as they made plans to come and picket the funeral of a soldier killed in combat. As it turned out, they didn’t show up, but the local community was up in arms and ready to spring a counter-protest.

These wrong-headed people are in no way following in Jesus’s steps. This from a news release sent out days before the funeral and still available on their web site:

GOD HATES AMERICA & IS KILLING
YOUR TROOPS IN HIS WRATH.
Military funerals have become pagan orgies of
idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the
dunghill gods of Sodom & play taps to a fallen fool.

The last line is the worst: “THANK GOD FOR IEDs.” That would be the weapon used to kill this soldier.

So how is it that people like this think they are walking in obedience to God’s will? Christ was suffering but He made no threats. Do they think that because they’re not the ones suffering, it’s OK to issue threats and recrimination?

In the end, all they accomplish is to confuse society so that when someone wants to issue a warning, it’s taken as a threat. But that’s what false teaching does—it plays right into the hands of Satan, the father of lies.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in June 2012.

Published in: on June 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Button Girl—A Review


One thing is true about having the kind of stroke I had: my recovery has allowed me to do more reading again. Here’s one of the best books that I enjoyed recently. (This review is a repost of one I published at Spec Faith last week).

The Button Girl by Sally Apokedak is a digital, soon-to-be-in-print-also young adult fantasy intended for the general audience. See excerpt here.

The Story

Young Repentance Attwater has reached the age of “buttoning,” or marriage, but she lives in a breeder village under the control of the overlords. She decided years ago when she witnessed her brother taken away from his family into slavery that she would never bear children only to lose them to the overlords. Even if she had to go into slavery herself. Even if she’d be separated from her family, from her sister who she wanted so desperately to protect.

When the day of the buttoning ceremony, Repentance must decide if she will follow through on her commitment or if she’ll become like her mother—contented, and powerless, in the face of the overlords’autocratic rule.

The Setting


The Button Girl
is set in a fanciful place, in an indeterminable time, where overlords rule lowborns, where some people live in the hot, swampy fog created by the hot springs and others live in the sun on the top of the mountain in the ice castle, where some have gifts of moon cloth and others have skimmers and still others have dragonsticks or sun cloth, but the overlords have taken control of it all.

The land is appropriately “other” for a fantasy, and feels very real and vivid.

The Characters

The cast of characters in The Button Girl is not overwhelmingly large and each individual has clear, discernible motives. Repentance is the point of view character, and like many teens, she thinks she knows better than her parents. She may not be able to change the world, but she wants at least to gain some measure of control over her own circumstances. But she underestimated the effects of her choices. She didn’t know or understand all the factors, and in the end she must make a heart-wrenching choice that she never anticipated.

She’s a likeable character, and all along I found myself cheering for her and hoping that she’d found the path to safety and happiness.

The other characters remain true to form and each acts in understandable ways. Sober is a compelling character. The king is sympathetic and powerless, Comfort is vulnerable, the prince is selfish and greedy. They all act in ways that are true to their character. Together they create a story that is intriguing, to say the least.

The Plot

Repentance doesn’t want to have kids because she doesn’t want to give them up to the overlords. She doesn’t want to stand by idly as her own parents did when the overlords took their sons. She wants to protect her younger sister Comfort, but realizes she really can’t do anything to keep her safe. Against the helplessness of her life, Repentance decides to control the one thing within her power—she can refuse to button.

But to make that decision, she is dooming herself and her would-be button mate, to lives of slavery.

Only after her choice is irrevocable does she realize the ramifications of what she’s done—and the evil far outweighs the good.

Throughout her journey, Repentance struggles with why Providence has allowed the overlords to have control over the lowborn. Is Providence unfair? Or does He even exist? Why do her prayers seem to fall on deaf ears?

Repentance continues to act rashly, and one poor decision seems invariably to lead to another.

In the end, she knows what she should do, but does she have the strength of character to do it?

Recommendation


The Button Girl
may be a YA fantasy, but readers of all ages will be delighted with this story. It’s filled with gripping tension, engaging characters, a fantasy setting that comes to life, and above all a problem that is so relevant to our times.

Apokedak gives no easy answers, but she does put her character into a situation that forces her to choose, and in so doing she allows us to see more clearly what our responsibilities are today. It’s a brilliant way to address what our culture faces.

I give this book my highest recommendation. Readers of all stripes, but especially fantasy readers, will be thoroughly engaged throughout. This is a book you won’t want to miss.

Published in: on June 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What’s Been Happening Since



Last October, a friend of mine died of cancer. In early December, another friend’s husband died from a rather rare lung disease. Just this month, the wife of a former colleague and of two former students passed away as a result of brain cancer.

The reality of life is that we die.

Except I didn’t. Not yet.

I could have died and many people do die as a result of a stroke and/or a heart attack.

Nothing I did separated me from my friends that have gone on ahead of me into heaven. I’m alive today by God’s mercy and grace. My time is in His hands, and the end of my days in the here and now simply hasn’t arrived yet.

I say all this because I want it to be clear that I didn’t survive because I have some magic bullet or pipeline to God. I survived because He wanted me to. I could have just as easily succumbed to my physical ailments as survive. But in response to my call for help, in response to the prayers of His children, and in the perfect working of His sovereign will, I survived.

But I didn’t just survive. I’m recovering from the stroke. It’s not like getting over the flu, but there’s no doubt I’m stronger every day.

I’ve had such tremendous support, not the least of which are the prayers of many. Some of the people who have given me help, I know either in person, or on-line, or from some time in the past. Some, I’ve never met! Imagine that! I tend to think that’s a work of the family of Christ, caring for a sister in need.

So this past month, I’ve been surrounded by people who have prayed faithfully, and have done the work of providing for what I need.

I live on my own in an upstairs apartment. So right after I was discharged from the hospital, friends invited me to stay with them over the weekend to re-hab a bit as a transition. When I came home, they sent me with enough food for that first week. Then a group of former students who had organized to take care of my grocery needs, stepped forward. They have taken turns to bring me what I’ve needed each week.

A writer friend headed up a Go Fund Me page to help provide for my needs while I’m not working. Another couple friends have given me rides to the doctor or pharmacy. A neighbor has taken out my trash, done my laundry, vacuumed my living room. Another friend changed light bulbs. And people have called, sent cards, texted, offered help. Others have provided monetarily through other means.

Friends have stepped up and covered for commitments I couldn’t keep. And above all, people have prayed. I can’t emphasize this enough. God wants to involve His people in His work, whether through our prayers, giving, or doing. He uses those who are available to Him.

I am blessed. And also mindful that God has more He wants me to do.

So I’m in the process of recovery, adding daily to my endurance and to what I can do on my own. It’s not easy. My head says I’m ready to do it all, but my body isn’t quite there yet. Close. And progressing. But the things I can do still take longer than I want, and I’m not able to do all I think I should be doing.

But a number of good counselors have reminded me to take my recovery one day at a time, and not try to get everything back all at once. My head says, “Go for it,” my heart says, “You can do it,” my body says, “Hold on, that’s enough.” So my physical therapist said, I need to listen to my body.

Knowing how much to push and how much to “listen to my body” is now the trick. But by God’s grace, I’m better today than I was yesterday. May His name be praised.

Published in: on May 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments (15)  
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So What Exactly Happened?


On April 12th, as near as I can tell, I had a stroke. Not a massive stroke. I wasn’t paralyzed and I didn’t slur my speech. I had no horrible headache. Just a small dull one. And a loss of balance which I thought was a result of an ear infection.

As a result, I did nothing (well, not quite nothing, but I didn’t do all the things you’re supposed to do for a stroke victim, though I did take an aspirin to deal with that dull headache, and did a couple things to help with my phantom ear infection). Until two days later. By that time I was not getting better and the loss of balance now included some weakness in my left arm.

Long story short I went to the ER and was quickly admitted because I had dangerously high blood pressure. They began to monitor me for stroke symptoms and to work to bring my blood pressure down. They ran a series of tests, including a CT scan and an MRI where they discovered that I’d experienced a 1.7 centimeter infarction on the right side of my cerebellum. They also monitored my heart and gave me several tests, including a stress test, and discovered that I’d also experienced a small heart attack.

The culprit, apparently, was the high blood pressure, and for good measure, they diagnosed me as diabetic, too.

Besides a number of medicines, I went on a low sodium, constant carbohydrate diet, and I started seeing a physical therapist daily.

Each day I could see progress, and when my blood pressure leveled out to what the doctor had set as the new parameter, and when the stress test showed no blockage in my heart, they discharged me.

Ever since, I’ve been on the mend. The “weakness” in my arm, which presented more as a lack of coordination, has almost completely disappeared, which is why I can again type. My left leg was affected more, but I’ve graduated from the walker to a cane, and my home physical therapist said, the day he discharged me, that he didn’t see why I couldn’t regain full use of both leg and arm.

My endurance isn’t there yet, but it’s also getting better. I’ve had wonderful help and support, which has been such a blessing, but more on that another time. Suffice it to say, I walked through the fire, but not alone. (Isaiah 43:2) I did nothing “right,” but in the midst of my distress I did call out to God. He heard my cry for help and has sent me just the people I’ve needed. Praise Him for His provision.

Published in: on May 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments (22)  
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Praise The Lord


A sneak-peak of my article for my church which is due to post June 14. The passage is Psalm 113:

1 Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
Praise the name of the LORD.
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the LORD is to be praised.
4 The LORD is high above all nations;
His glory is above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
Who is enthroned on high,
6 Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in heaven and in the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 To make them sit with princes,
With the princes of His people.
9 He makes the barren woman abide in the house
As a joyful mother of children.
Praise the LORD!

On April 12 I had a mild stroke. Praise the Lord.

Yes, praise the Lord. He who is exalted over all the nations, whose splendor—or glory, as the NASB says—is above the heavens, who is beyond compare, lifts the needy from the place of desperation. He bends down, or stoops, to give attention to His creation—to our plight, to our needs.

I know the truth of this Psalm from an experiential point of view. I’ve lived it as God has brought healing and help, often through His people, through some of my church family, the blogging community, former co-workers and students, fellow writers, family and friends.

Yet one day, the truth is, we will all come to our end here on earth. Will God be less worthy of praise on that day? He will not.

Through the life or the death of His saints, God can glorify His name. I’m taking this opportunity to praise Him because He saw fit to preserve, protect, and restore me, but even if He had taken me home, I’d be the winner, and He would deserve praise.

So, one way or the other, I stand in awe of His grace, and I say a loud AMEN to the psalmist’s statement: Praise the Lord!

Published in: on May 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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No Thank You, Mr. Buffett


Suppose I decide I want to talk to Warren Buffett, the American business magnate. I hunt up a number, call, and wonderfully am answered on the first ring by one of his many assistants.

I explain I want to talk to Mr. Buffett himself. The assistant tells me he just happens to be on site and available. In seconds I hear Mr. Buffett’s energetic voice.

I eagerly identify myself, then move on to the reason for my call. “Thank you,” I say, “but Mr. Buffett I’ll have to say no. I just can’t accept a million dollars from you.”

He pauses, clears his voice, then says, “There must be some mistake. I never offered you a million dollars.”

As you know, this scenario is completely fictitious, but I think there are parts that are analogous to our perception of humankind’s relationship with God.

Jesus clearly said that

he who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18; emphasis mine)

As I understand this passage, there are only two camps—he who believes and he who has not believed. In other words, no one is in the state of my fictitious scenario in which no offer has been made.

We frequently talk about accepting Christ, yet we don’t take much time thinking about what rejecting the Son means. Instead, we assume that first a person hears about Jesus, then he “makes a decision.” That way of looking at things suggests the third category—those who have not heard.

I want to postulate that the decision to reject the Son of God has more to do with our heart attitude than it does with hearing the name of Jesus.

I realize I am walking a dangerous line here, one I think some of the universalists traverse. However, I hope I am coming at it from a Biblical perspective.

More and more, people claiming to be Christians speak of the “innocent” people who haven’t heard the gospel (as Rob Bell did some years ago in his ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos). At best that position is tapping into the “blank slate” theory, that man is born neutral and can decide to be good or evil. At worst, it aligns with the belief that man is good and something from the outside—society or government or Satan or an evil parent or traditional religion—drags him into sin.

The truth is, none is innocent. None is righteous. We are all in “reject” mode, dethroning God and enthroning ourselves.

Let me turn the page for a minute. When Jesus was teaching in the temple one day, He began a discussion with the Pharisees about who their father was. They claimed God was their father, but Jesus said no. Their father was the devil (see John 8:18-59).

Whether Jesus stood in front of them or not, their father would still have been the devil. He did not become their father because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The devil already was their father.

Jesus, of course, knew this about them because He is omniscient. He knew they were slaves to sin. The only thing that could free them would be His shed blood.

But today so many are coming to the issue of salvation as if it is a matter of imparting information—giving everyone a chance to hear the truth, and if they haven’t had that chance, then God is either unfair or He’ll give them that chance later or the information we thought they needed, they didn’t really need because their own belief system is a good substitute.

All of this rejects the idea that an omniscient, all powerful, good God who forms us in our mothers’ wombs can know our hearts and that He calls those who are His. It’s an uncomfortable idea.

We don’t know, can’t understand why God put us in America where we could so easily hear the gospel.

But we must marvel just as much about Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, who was kidnapped with the intent to be sold into slavery. As a result, he had the opportunity to learn about Jesus and escaped the plague that wiped out the rest of his people group.

Or how about Mincayani, one of the Huaorani tribesmen that killed Jim Eliot and the others martyred with him. His act of violence did not stop the truth of God from coming to his people and specifically to Mincayani himself.

The stories of people coming to Christ are many, varied, and no less miraculous if the miracle is about being born where the gospel is readily heard or if it is about one hearing the unexpected and unsought truth of God’s Son.

My point is this. I don’t believe anyone will be judged for rejecting an unoffered gift. God is not Warren Buffett.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in March 2011.

The Goodness Of Humans And Animals


I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an animal referred to as evil. Sure, there have been rogue animals that break from normal behavior for one reason or another. They may act in unpredictable ways, but no one ascribes evil motives to them. They are being nothing more than what their environment and their DNA made them to be.

Of course many in our culture want to believe the same about humans. Except there’s this odd, inexplicable problem: Humankind believes in evil.

Not within animals, mind you. No matter how many gazelle a lion slaughters, no one calls him a murderer. No one is out trying to convince the cat family to become vegetarians — not even those which we’ve domesticated and which live under our care. We understand they are carnivorous, we accept that as fact, and we don’t try to train the “evil” out of them. We don’t believe it is evil for them to eat meat.

In contrast, humans believes humans to be evil. Even those who think humanity is good. Generally “society” is blamed for causing good humans to swing to the dark side. It’s those churches, one side says. If it weren’t for religion, we wouldn’t have had all the wars we’ve enduring for centuries.

It’s demon drink, the other side says, or bad government or political corruption or Big Business or drugs.

Whichever way you look at it, the answer is, humanity causes the problems because “society” is nothing more than humans acting in a group.

And yet, our culture increasingly says openly, humanity is good. Hence, we should simply give in to our instincts—as long as we do no harm to others.

How interesting that the animals have no such exception clause. They can do harm to others with impunity. No one calls the bull elephant who chases off the young males threatening his leadership in the herd, a bully. No one wants to hold him accountable or tell him he needs to make room for others to express their individuality. Or that, in fact, the female elephants should have equal authority, and if they want to take charge of the herd, then the males should be only too happy to care for the pint-sized elephants for a while.

There is no equity in the animal kingdom, no sense of fair play, of justice. Alligators aren’t held accountable for the baby wildebeest they devour. Cheetah aren’t considered immoral because they attack the weak or the young instead of taking on the most fit zebra in the herd.

Animals act as animals will. And humans?

We’re such a mixed bag. We volunteer hours on end to search for a missing child, we collect money and clothes to give to victims of natural disasters, we risk our lives to pull others out of burning buildings or sinking ships.

But we also cheat on our income tax and lie to our husbands or wives. We hold grudges and argue and complain and push to get our own way. What a selfish, proud, unkind, discontented lot we are.

From what I can discern, only Christianity explains the existence of evil. If life is, as many apart form Christianity believe, nothing more than matter plus time plus chance, then where did intolerance come from? Where did hatred come from?

Christianity understands the uniqueness of humanity, both of his created and his fallen states, explaining the mixed bag completely. What other worldview can make such clear sense of the things we see in this world?

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in March 2012.

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 6:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Jesus And Jerusalem


Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for one final Passover. Christians refer to the commemoration of this as Palm Sunday, and it marks the beginning of Holy Week.

The thing most noteworthy about this arrival—and thus the name—is that His followers preceded Him with palm branches and shouts of praise. They believed they were ushering in the promised Messiah. And they were. But they understood the Messiah to be a king who would free Israel from their enemies (Rome) and establish a new kingdom without end.

Jesus’s expectations were entirely different. He came to Jerusalem knowing full well that the people He had come to save would turn their backs on Him, would falsely accuse Him, try and convict Him, beat Him, and finally crucify Him.

Oh, sure, at the end of His life people would still identify Him as king of the Jews, but the words would be inscribed on a board at the head of the cross where He would be nailed—the place where a criminal’s accusation would typically be placed.

His expectation was not that of a triumphal king. He was coming to Jerusalem to fulfill His role as suffering servant.

Ironically, after the people stopped cheering, after they began to be swayed by the Pharisees who regarded Jesus as a danger to them, to their way of life, Jesus accomplished the very thing they had hoped for. Just not in the way they expected.

In those first moments on His way up to the City, despite the palm branches and the cries of Hosanna, Jesus expected to die in Jerusalem. In dying, He would fulfill the very role His followers had wanted for Him. He would defeat their enemy and free them from the shackles they had been held by. But the enemy was death and the shackles were sin.

Jesus’s brief stay in Jerusalem and the nearby villages was marked by controversy. He would say things that put the Pharisees in their place. He would weep over the city because of their rejection of Him.

He would face betrayal and denial and desertion. He’d be lied about and misunderstood. Romans, who hated the Jews, would spit on Him and mock Him as the king of that backwater Roman province.

And Jesus walked into it all, headlong. He knew what was coming. He expected every insulting, cruel action and word directed His way.

The praises showered on Him that first day as He rode the donkey into the City, were a result of His miracles, according to Luke. The people knew Him to be the person who performed wondrous deeds, including the resurrection of Lazarus. Perhaps they’d witnessed one of the healings. After all, just outside of Jericho He gave sight to the blind beggar Bartimaeus. Perhaps word of this miracle had traveled ahead of him. Or certainly with the group of followers who accompanied Him.

But Jesus hadn’t come to Jerusalem to do more for those people’s physical condition. What they really needed, they didn’t realize. So they came looking for one thing, and Jesus came intending to give them something far greater.

That they missed it, grieved His heart, and He cried over the city.

What must the people have thought, this figure they wanted to crown as their king, pausing on the ride into the city . . . to cry? Maybe that’s when the seeds of disaffection were first planted. But Jesus crying for the lost was the truest picture of His heart and the motivation for what He intended.

He went to the cross—He wasn’t dragged there against His will—to be the ultimate Passover Lamb for Israel and for us Gentiles, too. We who didn’t even know we needed a Passover Lamb. Jesus knew what we needed above all else—peace with God, victory over sin and death—and that’s what He intended to give us, no matter what it cost.

Groaning


This world is groaning. It’s the weight of sin that causes it, and it’s been going on for … well, since Eve believed Satan over God.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if we as human beings aren’t more aware of the groaning than at any point in history.

Terrorism has people across the globe on heightened alert. War and rebellion are tearing nations apart. Famine is on the increase, and the economy of the rich countries vacillates beyond our control. Add to all this earthquakes in places like Haiti, Chile, and Japan; the tornadoes and flooding in the US; hurricanes on the East coast.

We’re groaning.

Professing Christians are leaving the church. Government—democratic government that was supposed to have the necessary checks and balances–is self-serving if not corrupt. Marriage is being redefined. In other words, civilized institutions are crumbling.

We’re groaning.

The weight of sin is too big. Drug addiction isn’t lessening. Anxiety isn’t disappearing no matter how much we medicate. Neither is depression. Interpersonal conflicts haven’t ceased. In fact divorce is still a growing problem no matter that so many people now practice at marriage before making “lifetime” vows. Abuse continues or perhaps is on the increase. Child slavery and sex trafficking are problems that seem without end.

We’re groaning.

Worst of all, who can we trust? The person we love the most is the person who shatters our hopes and betrays us by their unfaithfulness.

We are indeed groaning.

Should I go on to mention cancer or AIDS or fears of a worldwide pandemic? I suspect it’s not necessary.

At every turn, we’re groaning.

Like any number of crises recorded in the Bible, God is standing with open arms saying, Your way leads to destruction. My way leads to life.

Over and over stiff-necked people ignored Him or shook their fists in His face, denying His right to rule. So it seems, we’re doing today.

We think if we just get the right person in the White House, if we only raise taxes or cut spending, if we only marry the right guy or girl, pass this piece of legislation or that, solve one key problem then another, use this green technology or drill that oil well, then, at last, the world will come round aright.

In that foolish thinking, we are ignoring the One who wants us to fix our eyes on His Son.

“See to it,” Paul said to the Colossians, “that no one takes you captive through philosophy or empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of this world, rather than according to Christ.”

The philosophy and empty deception of our day says we can solve our own problems, that we don’t need anything outside ourselves. We have the power within us.

And yet, with all this great power within ( 🙄 ), we don’t seem any closer to bringing the groaning to an end. We’re looking in the wrong places.

There isn’t a chemical high or an alcohol-induced haze that will mask the pain long enough, there isn’t a movie or video game or concert or ballgame that will distract us sufficiently, there isn’t a better relationship that will heal our shattered heart.

Except the one God offers through Christ Jesus. He is our Hope, and He is our Salvation.

In Him the groaning will one day come to an end. And even while we wait for that day, we find comfort and peace and joy in the presence of the only One who can see us through. The Psalmist says, “He Himself knows our frame.” And Moses in Deuteronomy says, “The Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” God through Isaiah says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

Paul tells us in Romans that the Spirit groans, too. For us. “The Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

The world groans under the weight of sin, but God through Jesus Christ has conquered sin. Praise His Name.

Easter, which is coming up later this month, is all about commemorating what Jesus Christ did to free us from the slavery to sin. But unless we acknowledge the weight of sin, we won’t appreciate what God accomplished through His Son.

Sometimes I think people have to be blind not to see the effects of sin. But we are so used to the things that break God’s heart and that harm humankind, we take them as “normal.” They aren’t. What God created was good. What we’ll enjoy in the new heaven and the new earth will be free from the “slavery to corruption.” And even now we can enter into the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

This post is a revised and expanded version of one that first appeared here in September 2011.

Published in: on April 7, 2017 at 6:49 pm  Comments (28)  
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