Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Most Wonderful Life

In Frank Capra's beloved film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey gets to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. The absence of his life ripples through Bedford Falls, and presents a parallel universe that is ugly and cruel. He ends up begging to live again, and concludes that his life, with all its challenges, is truly wonderful.

Did you ever think what our world would be like if Christ had not risen from the dead? I considered simply pasting a graphic of a smoldering cinder as my assessment of where our planet would be without the Resurrection. I just don’t believe this world would have survived.


If Jesus had not been raised:

  • No payment for our sins and no forgiveness

  • No heaven, only hell

  • No gospel message

  • No transformed lives throughout history

  • No apostolic witness and no church

  • No New Testament, and an Old Testament riddled with false prophecy

  • No Christian hospitals, orphanages, half-way houses, or homeless shelters

  • No Apostle Paul, Constantine or Augustine

  • No Gutenberg, John Wycliffe, or Martin Luther

  • No William Tyndale, John Calvin, or John Bunyan

  • No Jonathan Edwards, Wesley brothers, or George Whitefield

  • No William Carey or D. L. Moody

  • No C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham or J.I Packer

  • No peace for the present or hope for the future

But thank God, this is not a day for terrible possibilities. This is the day we set aside to proclaim the central truth of our faith: Our Savior died for our sins and was raised from the dead! And because Jesus rose,

  • We who know Him are indwelt by the Spirit and live in the power of His grace.
  • We have the hope of heaven.
  • Those who died in Christ wait for us there, and we will be reunited.
  • We are redeemed, forgiven, justified, reconciled, and adopted..
  • Our lives have eternal value and our actions have everlasting consequences.
  • We know that love, truth, justice, and hope will prevail over hatred, lies, oppression, and despair.
  • We have a message to share that is supernaturally transforming from a Bible that is absolutely trustworthy.
  • We’re part of a band of redeemed sinners that stretches back through the centuries, and marches forward into the future until our King returns to claim all that is His.

 Oh, Jesus, how thankful we are that You rose again!


Friday, March 29, 2013

When the Worst Thing Actually Happens

This is Good Friday, but it wasn’t good for Jesus. It was indescribably terrible, when He who knew no sin became sin.

Last night I was reading the story of Jesus’ Upper Room ministry to His disciples. Right before He washed their feet (including, of course, Judas’), John said this: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist (John 13:3-4, my emphasis).

What? All things were given into His hands? Did the “all things” include His own impending torture, death, and separation from the Father by being identified with the filthy sin of all God’s elect?

Yes, it did. Jesus said of  the laying down of His life: No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father (John 10:18).

The worst thing imaginable happened. The best Man who ever lived, the only truly innocent man, was charged and convicted by false testimony of crimes He never committed. The kindest, most loving, Man our race will ever know was cruelly humiliated and tortured, and then slowly put to death.

Somehow, in ways I cannot untangle, the worst thing that ever happened was the best thing that ever happened.

I know people who have had the “worst thing” actually happen to them. Loved ones die, awful disease afflicts, women are brutalized, evil people abuse little children. 

Our God really is in charge of all things, yet without being the author of sin. Scripture says that the worst things that happens are still held in the hands of Jesus. I don’t fully understand, but it helps that those hands have nail prints in them.

Christ's worst thing became Good Friday. It became the complete payment for the sins of His own, and opened heaven to people like me who were sliding to hell. 

I believe that in His timing, wisdom and love, the worst things that happen to us will become best under His kind and all-powerful hands. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Exceptional Man

On Palm Sunday morning, March 24, our friend Rick Wells died at home at the age of 65. We’re all comforted to know that he went immediately into the presence of Christ.

Dionne and I got to know Rick and his wife Jeanne by marriage: their daughter Cheryl married our son Andy. So it was our privilege to be in a family circle with Rick over the last ten years or so. He was one of the finest men I’ve ever known.

Rick was a man of many gifts and accomplishments, but what stood out to me was his gentle way with his family and friends. He was great with kids of all ages. He could instantly organize and lead a crew of little ones, racing them through the house on a treasure hunt. His enthusiasm and energy made it hard for anybody to keep pace with him.

Words like kindness, hospitality, and generosity weren’t just occasional descriptions of Rick. They were true every time I saw him, including just a few weeks ago when he was very sick.

A wonderful husband and father, he treated my son like a son, and was a great “poppy” to our shared grandchildren.

Rick makes me admire Jesus more. I think he would deflect any of the countless tributes he’ll receive in his passing, and point to Christ. That’s the true measure of an exceptional man.

Heaven seems a little closer now, knowing he's there.