Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'll never know how much it cost

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
To look on Him and pardon me.
(Before the Throne of God Above)

This morning they lit the first candle of Advent, the Candle of Hope. I say 'they' due the fact 'we' arrived a bit late and, much to Emily's dismay, had to sit in the overflow "room" (a small section at the rear of the sanctuary where late-comers are placed in an effort, through shame and poor acoustics, to teach them the sin of arriving after the sanctuary doors are shut) and in the last row at that.

Hope. In the ESV, hope is mentioned 5 times in verses 24 and 25 of Romans 8. Verse 24 ends with, "For who hope for what he sees?" I do.

Well, let me explain. Granted it is not as spiritual as our hope in Christ, but I hope for a God-centered adult life for my children. On a more day-to-day application, I hope from my children an obedience that honors their mother and I. With our oldest, I see, more and more frequently, not an unquestioning obedience that Emily not simply desires but often requires to keep the day on task, but the parent honoring obedience that God requires of him.

Now our youngest still challenges me. One moment her bold defiant actions erase any spiritual growth I thought I'd achieved as anger creeps up to the surface of my flesh, then in an instant, a smile and her sweet "Sorry, Daddy," even if insincere, disarms me. Still I hope for her life to be God-centered, despite her stubbornness and ability to give rise to mine. I see little fruit in that area, but still I hope.

Who in your life have you written off? Scott asked this question as he preached this morning, only in slightly different context. Who in your life do you no longer have hope for? Who do you believe Christ can no longer redeem? Since, most often, I find myself preaching to myself through my writing, Matthew 7:6 came to mind in my defense. "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." Why bother with the dogs and pigs? Why should I waste my time, my energy, my life on them. Then I reread it, "Do not give to dogs what is holy." I am not holy, the preceding (and following) verses make that clear. The verse clearly refers to God's Word and God Himself.

If God has hardened someone's heart to the Gospel, sharing God's Word will be fruitless. But God does not say do not serve this person, do not pray for this person. In fact the Wesley commentary on Matthew 7:6,7, & 8 suggests that the Bible instructs us to pray for that person.

Despite my faults (they are many) and the mistakes I've made (they are even more), Emily has bound her life to mine even tighter. When I think about her love and devotion to me, especially in light of the hardships to which I've subjected her and our children, I am amazed. She demonstrates Christ's love for me. And how much more amazing that a Holy, Holy, Holy God would love me to send His Son to die for me.

Emily has not written me off. She has hope in the promise that Christ will complete this good work. Again, I am finding myself defensive. So, how many times do I have to let myself be hurt? Be let down? How many times is enough, how much pain is enough, how much sacrifice is enough, before I can write this person off, before I can move on?

I guess it depends who the example for your life is. I can think of many folks who would have told you that you have given too much of yourself already. Some may advice you to hang on a little longer. I know it can't be perfectly achieved this side of heaven, but if Christ is your example . . . Not an easy route, is it? Christ, Himself, when looking at the pain and suffering before Him asked His Father if there was another way, but in God-honoring obedience gave Himself up.

Father God, You know my sin, it is ever before me, yet You saved me. Strengthen me to love and serve as Jesus. Make me bold to share what You have done for even me. Thank you also for Emily. And, Father God, thank you for hope. Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will there be football in Heaven?

Marlon asks the best questions. Real and obvious questions that, in my pursuit to be more spiritual than you, I miss. "Will there be football in heaven?" Typically his questions send me into a state of semi-meditation as I draw from my memory scripture, sermons I've heard, and items I've read to avoid some blasphemous response. Today, I was relieved to have a such a quick response to his question: "I don't know."

He loves football, wants to play for his school, but didn't make the team because he was too small. Though a new believer, his faith is such that it's not a deal breaker, but it's important to him. He's disappointed in my answer, then adds, "I hope so."

"Me, too."

I get up and shout when the Seminoles play well (actually when they don't play well also) but I would not consider myself a football fan. Yesterday, Emmett and I were on the way home from Wal-Mart when we heard this odd sound. A quick survey revealed its source: a van painted in the the Jaguar's team colors accented by Jaguar logos of various sizes as well as the trademark paw print. I can only presume the sound was a musical horn, played too loud, bombarding those of us around him with some, very distorted, Jaguar fight song. These guys were football fans.

When does something like football cease being a God-given desire of our heart and become another self-created idol, seducing our affections from our bridegroom? To steal from Pastor Brinkman, we rarely replace God with an idol, but we decorate His throne room with them.

I'd make a good Pharisee, maybe (I might be too lazy); I know the importance of an air of righteousness. With the rich young ruler, I can say, "All these things I have kept from my youth." But God knows my heart. "You still lack o
ne thing. [Insert a command for me to give up my idols here]."

Furthermore, He calls me out, "
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder . . . " (Matthew 5:21-30, NKJV ; You can look it up. You Navigators and Baptists have already found it. For the rest of you, it's the first book of the New Testament).

Before I realize the waves are now breaking above my knees, He sees me sinking. And just as He sent His son to satisfy His wrath against me, He sends His Spirit to sanctify me, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26)

So what will heaven be like? Will there be pets? Books? The ocean? I don't know. All I know is we'll be with Him, there will no more sin, and no more sadness.

In the meantime, if you hear some weird noise, don't worry; it's just His Spirit praying double time for me.