Unconditional

By Richard Pelfrey

Before I even knew the story behind it, I thought it was a cool line : “the prodigal son returns”. I’d get the image of this weary dude coming back home dusty from the road and receiving all sorts of glory. In a way I was right. The son did return, and he did receive glory, gifts, and even praise. But it wasn’t till recently that I knew what he was returning from. And it’s been problematic for me recently.

Come to find out, prodigal means wasteful or “wastefully extravagant”. So here’s a guy who grew up privileged. He has one older brother and their father is successful. He, in the arrogance and delusion of his youth, decides to take his inheritance early and lite out for the territories. He’s gonna see the world, do it his way, and make it. Take life by the horns, do it his way, and return successful. But, alas, it turns out he knows a lot less about the world and himself than he thought, and after an introduction to the harsh reality of the world he returns broken, ashamed, hungry and penniless. He has wasted his inheritance and returns home not triumphant, but defeated. He plans to beg for a job and instead is given the seat of honor.

This sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? Jesus seems to say I can go out and waste time, money, integrity, values, whatever…I can go out and blow everything I’ve got, go have a blast, and then be praised when I return broke. But what about dude’s brother? He stayed at home, probably working double to pick up his sibling’s slack. He didn’t have any of the extravagant fun that his brother must have had. He was stuck with Dad while brother was partying with prostitutes. And then he just wanders back onto the ranch and is welcomed with a feast and nice stuff?

But, Jesus explains through this parable, it’s OK. You see, the kid’s father has unconditional love for him. The father doesn’t care about the wasted money or the terrible decisions, he cares about his boy’s life. And so, our prodigal child is greeted with cries of exaltation and tears of joy. Welcomed back with open arms and even given the seat of honor.

It makes me wonder how my Sister must feel when I, having wasted years and causing stress and heartache to our parents and squandering all my stuff, reappear. In the past they’ve been like the Dad in this story, welcoming me back with open arms. Oblivious to where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing because of their simple joy to see me at home.

I wonder what it feels like for “Church people”?. To grow up in church, follow all the rules, not get trapped in worldly pleasures, etc…to try hard all your life to be righteous and then be expected to welcome in with hugs and excitement and honor people who’ve been prodigal for ten, twenty, thirty years. People like me, who turned their backs and lived it up out in the world for years until, after they had nothing left, came back begging. I’d be upset, not happy. It’s not fair. I wonder if my little sister is angry at me for being so selfish all those years? I wonder how many people in our Church today justifiably resent those who get saved from years of deliberate sinfulness and are welcomed into the kingdom just the same, but with pomp and praise?

I know that the moral of God’s prodigal son story isn’t “life is unfair, deal with it”. He left that lesson for my earthly father to teach me – over and over again. No, I think it’s got a different meaning depending on what side of the deal you are on. So really for me the lesson has changed since I first read it.

At first, as a man who had wasted all his blessings and had nothing left but stories – it gave me the hope that I could come back and be loved no matter how far down I had sunk or for how long. God, like the father in the story, isn’t very concerned with what we’ve done. He’s only joyous that we’ve lived through our wastefullness and decided to come into relationship with Him. There’s nothing too nasty that we can do, there’s no “point of no return”. If we want the love, it is there waiting patiently, free of judgment. It is unconditional, just like my parents’ love.

Now, as a traveler of the narrow road, I’m called to be accepting just as others (and God) were of me. There should not be any animosity, jealousy or resentment. Only joy. If there is, I have a chance to grow. God gives me the opportunity to love like Him, and accept anyone who has stepped off the broad road and wants to give this thing a go. It is an opportunity to live and not judge, and to share the gospel just as he commanded. Without this, our Church would stagnate and die. We are nothing without our love, unconditional and all-encompassing. This is what saves people, and what keeps the saved in the will of God.

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Going up?

by Dan Merrell

Life is like an elevator.

At the very top of the building, the penthouse suite, is THE BEST LIFE POSSIBLE.

At the very bottom of the building, the basement, is THE WORST SCENARIO IMAGINABLE.

Somewhere in between those two floors is your floor.

It’s likely that depending on circumstances, some days you get on the elevator near the penthouse, and somedays darn near the basement.

Elevators go up and down.  It’s their nature, what they’re meant to do.

Sometimes you control that, sometimes you don’t.

Don’t we all wish there was an express built just for us that will take us right to the very top and beyond, like the WONKAVATOR?

Elevators do what they’re told, what they’ve been designed to do  (OK, sometimes they get stuck, but that’s rare.)

Sometimes you get on an elevator and you can’t wait to get to where you’re going (job promotion).

Sometimes, you’d rather die than cross that threshold (divorce court).

Sometimes, you stand outside and do nothing.  Too risky in there.

But life keeps going up and down without you.  People get on and off.

Life rushes by.

Up, down, up, down.

At some point, probably in the past, you may have been greeted by someone working the elevator who asked “which floor?” or “going up?”

These days, you don’t see folks running elevators.

Theses days we are greeted by elevator “music.” some beeps and clicks or dings or whatever letting us know that we really are making our way to our destination (up or down).

Some elevators are fancier than others, some faster, some larger (like in hospitals), some inclined (like in Vegas at the Luxor), some are glass (fancy hotels), both inside and outside the building (which is scary).

But they all get you where you’re going, wherever you’ve told them to go.

Sometimes you enjoy the ride, sometimes you don’t.

Other people may or may not be on the elevator.

Most of the time, you pretend they are not there, or just smile, or say hi, or talk about the weather, or watch the video or news crawl or listen to the little chimes and dings.

Have you ever stood outside the elevator punching buttons and wondering if anything is happening?

Have you every stood inside while NOTHING happened, and it kind of freaked you out a bit?

Imagine this tomorrow when you wake up and are ready for the day…

You are standing in front of an elevator.

What floor, in your life, are you on?  Near the bottom, the middle or the top?

Where is your destination?  Are you plans to go UP, to ascend to the best life possible?  

Or, do you find your fingers pressing the DOWN button one more time, just dreading the WORST CASE SCENARIO basement experience you’ve put up with for so long in your recent life?

What’s down there anyway?

Your ex?  Your kids?  Your finances?  Your unemployment?  Your bad health?  Your family?  Your eating disorder?  Your depression?  Your addiction?  Your disbelief?  Disaster?  Fear?  Death?  Hell?

What’s drawing you down there?

Who’s hitting the down button every day?

You?

If so, why?  Do you like it down there in WORST CASE SCENARIOVILLE?

Someone else?

If so, why are you letting them send you down to the basement, or down at all?

God?

Is GOD responsible for sending you down there, maybe as punishment, or revenge, or just because God can and wants to have you as low as you can possibly get to put you in your place once and for all, you miserable sinning wretch you?

“AND STAY DOWN THERE” He bellows.  “AND LIKE IT!”

Uh…

No.

Why are you punching the down button at all?

And if someone else is doing the punching why are you getting off on lower floors or in the basement?

Why not just push the button for a HIGHER FLOOR, or, GOD FORBID, THE BEST LIFE POSSIBLE BUTTON?

Maybe you think your elevator doesn’t go up anymore.  Maybe you think you lost your chance.

Maybe, you like it on the lower floors.  Maybe what’s UP THERE is more scary than what you know.

Where are you headed tomorrow on life’s elevator?

Up?

Nowhere?

Or down?

And why?

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Roads Broad and Narrow

by Richard Pelfrey

I went to a high school graduation at Zion Christian Academy in Columbia, TN last weekend. My own graduation was in Detroit, MI in 1998 – it was another life, and I barely remember it. There was so much self-created chaos in my world back then, and I was completely absorbed in it. At that age I’d resolved to live absurdly in an absurd world, to “open my heart up to the benign indifference of the universe” as one of my favorite authors at that time -Albert Camus- put it.

The speaker was a youth pastor from a local church, and he delivered one of the most concise and practical speeches I’ve heard. He addressed the small group of twenty-nine bright-eyed eighteen year-olds, but man, he was speaking right into my heart. The speech was under ten minutes – a little intro, an anecdote, and then some advice which he said would save the graduates from countless amounts of pain and stress; three words: “MAKE…WISE…CHOICES”.

I was dumbstruck. This is what it all boils down to. Just about all of the pain and tribulation in my life thus far has been of my own making, the consequence of some bad decision or series of wrong actions. I was left thinking “where was this guy when I graduated?”. Truth be told though, he may have been there delivering the exact same message and I would not have received it. I just wasn’t ready, I was still happily reveling in my own folly.

All this got me thinking about what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 —


Life is a journey. From Birth to Death we are on this long, windy road. It takes us through times of joy and pain, sunny days and rain. God decrees where our road begins and ends, so to some extent our journey is mapped for us. But in between we’ve got millions of decisions to make, so that it’s a path with myriad forks.  Seemingly infinite routes to the end of our time in this existence, but one right way. At every one of these forks in my life I have free will, the option to choose the broad road of destruction or that narrow and arduous road that leads to life. I can do what I feel like doing at the moment or I can do the next right thing, which, as we all know, can be very difficult. Every decision matters, and I can see this when I stop on the path to look back. All things work together…

God knows I’m gonna mess up. Paul reassures us that “all have sinned sin and fall short of the Glory of God…” but “we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. So there is one choice that should matter to us above all others: the choice to accept the grace and redemption of Christ. I must first resolve to live for Him before anything else, and then when I do mess up, He brings me back from the broad road, redeemed. I like the way the prophet Isaiah puts it: “whether you turn to the right or to the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you, saying ‘This is the way;walk in it’ ”(Isaiah 30:21). When we are living for Him we get vision, we know how to stay on the narrow road; but we still must choose it.

Every day I must do as Joshua commanded Israel, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). This needs to be my highest priority, and when it is I have a chance at being one of the few travelers on the narrow road. When I choose God, He shows me which fork to take.

I still miss the chaos of the broad road at times. The old life of reckless abandon still calls every now and then. But God reminds me of one of the scariest scriptures He’s shown me so far – Proverbs 29:1 – “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy.” I don’t want to push it anymore. I don’t want to find out how many chances I’ve got left. Dylan echoed Joshua back in 1979 when he sang “it might be the devil, it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody”. Today I choose to serve the Lord.

Peace.


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Seasons

by Dan Merrell

Our men’s community group gathered last night at the Merrell household for salads, steaks and potatoes.  One of our regulars (Clay) brought with him a special guest from Malawi.  His name was TK and he has spoken in front of our church before.  We invited him to share after our meal was finished.

He told us his testimony, which I remembered from church in bits and pieces (see yesterday’s blog).  There were times when he was hard to understand, though his grasp of the English language is admirable.  But I got the gist of it – God is at work all around the world regardless or what our present circumstances might tell us.  We had quite a list of needs to discuss on Thursday night…

– 2 of us are starting new businesses and need faith to overcome fear

– 2 want God to intervene in their daughter’s lives

– 1 wants peace

– 1 wants healing

– 1 wants restoration

– 1 wants energy

– TK himself also wanted grace, patience and confirmation as his family considered a relocation.

Lots of needs.  Each one of us are in a season of life where we have questions, hopes and fears.  TK, who listened very patiently to us American men laugh and share, was moved to hear that struggles are so similar all around the globe.

He reminded us all that whatever we are going through now in our lives – from crisis to blessing – is but a season of time.   There are lots of crises among us.  Here is what I know is going on in our gathering as I write this…

– Someone is contemplating suicide.

– Many are out of work and desperate for a job.  They have no idea where the next dollar is coming from.

– Dozens are lonely.  They don’t know what to do about it.

– Some are suffering from ill health.

– Someone is traumatized.

– A couple is hoping to reunite their marriage.

– Someone thinks they are ugly.

– A few have lost hope.

– Some struggle with mental illness or disabilities.

– Many battle with depression.

– Several are tired of rejection, and just want to be left alone.

– There are those who are having trouble with theirs sons and daughters, and don’t know what to do.

– Someone has lost a loved one.

– One has moved away.

– Many, many, many are heartbroken over love betrayed.

– A few have lost, or are losing, a parent.

And so it goes.  We are a large class, a microcosm of the world around us.  The pain we have experienced and presently know runs deep.  We don’t really want anyone to know.  We put on our church face and disappear into the dark at LIFT or the throngs at church.  No one will know.  No one must know.

We come because we hope for encouragement.  We come because we want to be among others who are praying “this too shall pass.”

We come to fellowship, worship, learn, sing.  And we come, I hope, to bow low before our God, seek His face and know His glory.

Church should be a refreshing oasis for believers.  The world has nothing real and lasting to offer us.  This is not our home.  These are not our people.  We are aliens and strangers behind enemy lines in a battle that is sometimes overwhelming with pain and frustration.  Our mission is unclear, our objective obscured, our purpose forgotten.  No wonder the pews, the chairs and the parking lots are not full.  The planet has lost it’s way and we have no idea how to steer it back home safe and sound.

Thank God for Jesus.  For the Bible.  If it were not for the rock hard granite of God’s foundational Word, what a hopeless mess this would all be.  The Bible is a FOG LIFTER.  It’s a GAME CHANGER.  A book of PROMISES and PRAYERS that knocks us out of our worldly/fleshly stupor and points the WAY HOME.  It is a BEACON, A LANTERN, A TRACTOR BEAM, A SIGNAL, A SIGNPOST, A COMPASS guiding us out of the mess we’re in and back home to HEAVEN to JESUS OPEN ARMS.  He is surrounded by angels, apostles, saints and our loved ones.  And they are ALL engaged in cheering us on to VICTORY.

Sometimes we forget JESUS IS NOT ON THIS PLANET.  He sits on a throne in Heaven orchestrating past, present and future events in our lives to His glory.  He sent us the HOLY SPIRIT as a constant companion.  It is the job of this supernatural presence to remind us of who we are, what we are to do and how to do it.  Like used to be said of the post office, in “rain, hail, sleet or snow” WE MUST MOVE ON.

Many of you have told me what you’re going through.  Others silently bear their burdens alone.  But either way, TK’s words ring true.  Whatever is happening in your world right now, good or bad, is a season.  Life is cyclical.  But our GOD does not change.  He is immutable.  He is our ROCK, STRONGHOLD, FORTRESS.  If we stand firmly on Him, our feet rooted in faith, our sins washed in the blood, our confidence resting in the Spirit, our hope grounded in the Word, WE SHALL PREVAIL.  Come what may.  Do you believe it?

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Gone and Forgotten

by Dan Merrell

Getting old is hard.  I know I’m not OLD OLD, but I’m old.  I have to face it, 51 isn’t young (until you meet a spry 99 year old at least).

There are times when I reflect back on years past and have regrets.

There are times when I reflect back on years past and laugh, or cry.

There are times when I reflect back on years past and…nothing.  It’s not there.

The memory I was searching for is missing.  I find myself staring blankly at a person who has just said “Remember the time…” or “Remember when you said…”  There is simply a black hole where a memory should be.  The person questioning me is 100% sure they are accurate in their recollections, so I have to go with their version of events.  For better or worse.

Sometimes, this is embarrassing.

Sometimes, this is a huge relief as the incident or dialogue in question best not be remembered.

Sometimes, it is heartbreaking.  The desire to remember is there, to relive that moment and feel the flush of sensory emotions that wash over you vividly during such a flashback.  But, it just isn’t there.  It’s gone, and forgotten.

And even though the other person can provide details (time, date, place, actions taken or not taken) you just have to smile or cringe and say “Wow, I said that?” or “Seriously, that really happened?”  And you look like an idiot.  At least that’s what their face is telling me.

My wife has accused me over the years of using memory lapses as an excuse to avoid responsibility for something stupid I said or did.  I’m sure her brain is spot on in regards to recall.  She has one of those steel trap memories that will not forget something that I said or did 12 years ago.  I don’t know which of us has the greater curse – her with her brain of file cabinets, or me with my vacuum of a mind.  I think her maybe.

(SIGN LANGUAGE FOR “FORGET”)

I take a memory enhancing supplement.  I’m a smart guy.  I get paid for my brain by Fortune 500 companies.  Good thing they aren’t asking me what happened last Thursday at 10pm (I have no idea), or what happened back in my high school days while watching Jaws 2 at the drive-in with Missy, my girlfriend at the time (I still remember that-just kissing folks!).  Funny what your brain chooses to keep and discard.

God too has a memory.  His memory is vast.  Eternal.  All-encompassing.  The CSI of brain matter – where no trace detail can hide safely.  In his mighty mind sits a record of everyone’s thoughts and deeds who have ever lived on the planet.  He remembers stuff I thought or did that I have long since forgotten.  There is a record.  A stockpile of very, very bad stuff that will damn me for sure should it ever see the light of day.  And it will.  God promises that every dark deed of my life will be exposed.  The supernova sun of his holiness will beat down on my pitch black life unmercifully.

Read this from Ephesians 5…

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 

4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 

5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 

7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 

9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 

10 and find out what pleases the Lord.

11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 

12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 

13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 

16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Scary stuff indeed.  Why can’t God have a memory like mine?  Why can’t all the sordid details of my life be gone and forgotten?

Well, they can.  Check this out…

Oh yeah!  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  Gone and forgotten.  No record.  No memory.  No exposure.  No judgment.  No damnation.  No hell.

Further proof needed?

And there are many, many, many more verses like that scattered all through the Bible.  Promises that God will NOT hold our sins against us on Judgment Day.  I cannot think of better news.

I am witnessing such a phenomenon personally these days with a mother who is in early stages of alzheimer’s disease.  She has long term memory (sort of) but her short term processing is shot.  She goes to the sink to wash a pan, and doesn’t know what to do.  But she can reflect on days of my youth without a problem.  She can’t find words, and her sentences don’t make sense.  She knows what she wants to say, but there are just no words for her to bring back up from the storehouse.  They are gone, and forgotten.

She substitutes other words, but they are not adequate.  Sometimes she catches herself and laughs, embarrassed at her predicament.  This is especially painful to me as my mother has been my closest friend for all my life.  Now, the memories and experiences that forged our friendship are dissolving like dew in the noonday sun.  And it hurts.

I know that my sins hurt God.  For Him to forget them, to remember them no more, hurts him also.  Deeply.  That forgetfulness cost him his son.  Could there be any greater pain than that?  For me to experience GRACE and MERCY before His throne, HE HAD TO FORGET.  Only one way that could happen – sacrifice.  Now, my sins are GONE and FORGOTTEN based on Christ’s atonement for them.  God allowed a megaton bomb to go off in his brain that caused him to NOT ONLY FORGIVE, BUT FORGET.  My friends, that is huge.  And this is not just past sin, but present and future sin.  Now that is excellently HUGE!

I wish I could remember what I choose to remember, and forget what I choose to forget.  God has chosen to remember only ONE THING about me – that I have accepted His Son as Lord and Savior of my life.  All the rest is absent, void, missing.  Buried with Christ in His death.  Never to be recovered or exhumed.  Thank you merciful Jesus.  I for one am glad God forgives and forgets.

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Step Up!

by Dan Merrell

There are times in everyone’s life when you reach decision points, life-altering moments where you either have to move forward, or back away.  We can just stand there hesitating, or step up, and do something.

It happens in relationships.  You think you’ve found someone, but you’re not sure.  You have to know.  What do you do?  Speak, and potentially ruin a good thing?  Or stay quiet, and just get eaten alive inside.  Sometimes stepping up takes great courage.

It happens at work.  The possibility of a new promotion is right in front of you, but there will be sacrifice.  Yes, it’s more money, but it will cost you time.  You are going to have to make a trade – less time for yourself and your loved ones for more money.  Sometimes stepping up is also stepping away.

It happens with your health.  You go for the checkup, and the news is not all good.  You’re overweight, you’re smoking, you’re drinking or whatever.  The doc tells you to make a change.  Do you stick with your habits, satisfy current cravings, or make a painful adjustment that will pay off in the future?  What are you willing to sacrifice now for a potential payoff later?  Sometimes stepping up is sacrificial.

And, it happens in your spiritual walk.  There is a gnawing in our guts that we’ve sat on the sidelines too long, and its time to get in the game.  Consider two episodes from Jesus life, the first from John chapter two…

1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.a 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

This event is fascinating to me on many levels.  But, for our pondering today, Jesus stepped up in a big way, and a miracle took place.  Yes, the wedding guests got tipsy, but the real miracle is there in verse 11.  THE GLORY OF CHRIST was revealed in this act.  And it lead to faith.

Consider this – when WE STEP UP, WE affect others.  The influence we have to make a difference in someone’s life when we decide to make a bold move is enormous.  It may be with our family, friends, co-workers or even strangers.  But when we DECIDE AND DO others notice.  And if we are honoring Christ in these moments, GOD GETS THE GLORY!

If you knew that God would work a miracle through you if you stepped up, would you?  No matter the cost?  As soon as Jesus spoke in verse 7, the clock started ticking on his ministry.  He knew the momentous outcome of his actions.  He knew where it was leading.  To the cross, and back to the father.  This was a huge moment in his life, one that would propel him into a destiny laid out for Him before creation, and he seized it.  Once the decision was made, he never wavered.

Now, read this verse from Luke chapter nine…

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

JOHN PIPER nailed my thoughts on this verse..


To set his face towards Jerusalem meant something very different for Jesus than it did for the disciples: certain death. Nor was he under any illusions of a quick and heroic death. He predicted in Luke 18:32, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him … “ When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

Remember, when you think of Jesus’ resolution to die, that he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain like we do. He would have enjoyed marriage and children and grandchildren and a long life and esteem in the community. He had a mother and brothers and sisters. He had special places in the mountains. To turn his back on all this and set his face towards vicious whipping and beating and spitting and mocking and crucifixion was not easy. It was hard. O how we need to use our imagination to put ourselves back into his place and feel what he felt.

Now that is stepping up sacrificially.  Jesus did not step up for himself, but for you, and me.  When we step up for God, it cannot be for ourselves, our own benefit.  It must be for the glory of God and for the salvation of others.  Anything less is not worth stepping up for.  Listen, if God isn’t going to bring it up in Heaven on Judgment Day, why are we stressing about it down here now?   The ONLY thing that matters, is RESOLUTELY SETTING OUT, stepping up spiritually once and for all.  What has God called you to do and why are you procrastinating?

You know where this is headed.  Relationships, work, health – they all matter.  But only in the light of eternity.  The Bible is clear that if we gain the whole world and lose our soul, we got bupkis.  I don’t want to get caught at the pearly gates with BUPKIS.

Step up now, today, make your life eternally significant.  Or end up with this…


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Geronimo!

by Richard Pelfrey

Weather permitting and God willing, this weekend I will be jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. Cross another one off the bucket list.  For 115 bucks, I get a lifelong interesting fact about myself.

Even if I hate the experience, I’ll have the story to tell to make it all worth it. But, friends, I am terrified. I’ve always been afraid of heights – specifically heights that could kill me if something went wrong.

I realize today that my biggest fear, even after being forgiven of my trespasses: the fear of dying. I just don’t want this to be over. To quote a favorite musician of mine, “God it’s great to be alive, takes the skin right off my hide, to think I’ll have to give it all up some day.”

I’ve been playing the jump through in my head for a few weeks now. I can imagine the butterflies I’ll have. I’ve jumped bridges and 10 meter diving boards – partly to “face my fear” but mostly out of peer pressure, and I imagine it will feel something like that. I was thinking about this “butterflies” feeling, and I realize that I not only have it when stepping off of a high ledge into the air and the will of gravity, but also when I step out on faith into the will of God.

And also in the same way that I like a little bit of danger but shy away from too much, I step out on faith in certain things but avoid the big leaps. I’m afraid of dying too much, and it keeps me from receiving the full power of my Lord and savior. In both cases, the only thing standing in my way is me.

Jesus tells us that the man who hates his life in this world will keep it eternally (John 12:25). In fact He says repeatedly in all four Gospels that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”. We can see Paul walking this out in his farewell to the elders when he says “…I consider my life worth nothing to me.” Also several times in his letters he says things like “I die (to self) every day”(1 Cor. 15:3), “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden in Christ…” (Colossians 3:3), and “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”(Galatians 2:20) This is the radical Jesus and the sold-out Paul here. Definitely not VBS material. Not scriptures to be quoted to potential believers.

This used to confuse me, but I get it now. The thing is, it’s more frustrating now that I understand what God is talking about. For me to follow him as a disciple I must turn my back on my worldly life – a sort of death to the world – the bad parts as well as the beautiful and exciting moments that make it all worth while. So God has given me an awesome life and a potentially amazing world, but a painful choice as well. It’s easy to forget that the reward is a spot in a realm unimaginably and exponentially more beautiful than this.

I’m all about living, I love to adventure and experience. I love indie rock shows and dance parties. I sign up for idiotic things like skydiving. And though I want to live for the Lord, I just don’t want to give these things up. I’m afraid, just as the disciples were, of what it will be like. But Jesus reminds me that if I put Him first and seek the other realm at all costs, trust Him with all my heart, all these worries will be taken care of; He knows I have need of them, and I believe that He wants better for me than I can even imagine.

In the end I’m always happy whenever I take “the plunge”, both physically and spiritually. I have to remind myself of this; remember that everything’s gonna be alright, and that risk is a requirement of faith. Stepping off the ledge is an act of pure belief, and it is terrifying at times. But I do it anyways. This week as I stare my fear of death in the face and smile, I will remember this. And with time I think I’ll be able to – when faced with the decision to die to myself and to this world – take a breath, look up to the Father, and happily yell “Geronimo!!”.

Peace

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