Men

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

As Father’s Day comes to a close, I want to tell men “thank you” for being men, and especially to those who are active and passionate in your calling as fathers.

I know that you are proud. I also know you live your life in fear that you will be found out as the fraud you believe you are.

You think that if you talk too much about your feelings, you will be accused of weakness. Or worse, someone might realize you have a mental or emotional problem which, again, must be the fault of weakness.

You believe that any imperfection is your fault – it’s why you don’t go to the doctor, because he might find something wrong with you.

You think you can keep it together if you try hard enough, and when things fall apart you feel as though the whole world is judging you to be a failure as a man.

You struggle with your inability to meet an impossible standard of manliness.

Your heart breaks because you don’t feel like you could ever live up to the high calling of a husband or a father.

But what you don’t understand is that through the blood of Jesus, your heavenly Father sees you as you were created to be – who you were redeemed to be.

He doesn’t see your failures.

He doesn’t shake His head because you have to pay someone else to fix your car.

He doesn’t look down on you for all the projects you’ve never finished.

God sees you as the man you believe you can be – or maybe as the man you think you could never be.

Whoever you are, in whatever roles you are called to serve, God has gifted, equipped and called you to serve there.

You have been saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus.

And Jesus died to save sinful men: to save men who lose their temper too easily with their children and men who resent their wives; to save men who are too proud and men who are terrified of failure; to save deadbeat dads and abusive husbands; to save men who would rather be on a golf course or in a boat than at the dinner table and men who are grumpy because they had to turn off the ballgame so the kids could watch The Boss Baby again.

Men like you.

You are loved and you are forgiven. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a marvelous work of God. God has called you to be uniquely you and not someone else. He has called you to trust in His great love for you – and He has called you to show His love to those around you.

So thank you for being who He has called you to be (whether you feel like it or not), and thank you for being in our lives.

May the God of grace and mercy bless all men, Amen.

Happy Father’s Day.

Forgiveness

You can’t take it with you.

We’ve all heard it, we all know it, and sometimes we even remember to take it seriously. But there are things aside from money and possessions that we can carry all the way to the grave, and those things will weigh us down, drag us down, bend us and break us, until we don’t even realize we are no longer even walking upright. Continue reading Forgiveness

Write Your Own Obituary

There is a Garth Brooks’ song that talks about what it means to truly live.

The chorus goes like this:

There’s two dates in time That they’ll carve On your stone
And everyone knows What they mean
What’s more important is The time that is known
In that little dash There in between

What’s on your little dash there in between?

What will people say about you when you’re gone?

What do you hope people will say about you when you’re gone?

“For the wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got angry, scolded God, were egotistical or testy or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven.”

-Phyllis McGinlyey

We take comfort in knowing: those who came before us were sinners like us.

And – just as we will one day be – they are in heaven with the Lord now.

Not because they earned or deserved it, but because they believed.

So, who are your saints?

I’m not talking about the Roman Catholic Saints, with their statues and miracles and whatever else –

I mean who are your saints?

Who are the people whom God placed in your life –

Who loved you, taught you, inspired you…

And who are now with God?

She wasn’t perfect, was she?

He had his faults, didn’t he?

And yet they meant so much to you because they were there – in your life, somehow, some way – pushing, pulling, nurturing, mentoring, caring…

They filled in that dash in a way that was incredibly significant for you.

How would you write their obituary? Their epitaph? A tribute to what they meant to you?


Now, whose saint will you be?

Have you taken the same time, the same care, to be there for others in the way others were there for you?

We all have a choice to make.

Because that little dash in between our numbers – the dash we are filling in right now

It’s being written for you, right now.

We don’t get to write our own obituary after we’re gone – by then, it’s already been written.

The time for writing is right now.

Whether you know it or not, whether you’re aware of it or not,

You are writing your life story – and it’s that story that you will leave behind when you’re gone.

So is it a story you would be proud to have told?

If you could read your obituary, would it humble you to hear how well people think of you?

Or would it humble you with shame to hear how little you meant?

Because that’s the choice we own – what story are you writing?

You could spend your life making millions –

Go sky diving, mountain climbing and hang gliding,

Swim with the sharks, run with the bulls, even soar with the eagles,

Live a life our world would say was lived to the fullest.

But a life truly lived is a life filled with love.

Because, when it’s all said and done, we’re all put here for a reason –

And we were saved for a reason, too.

If we live our life for ourselves, why on earth would Jesus die for that?

But if we can live a life that leaves its mark on others –

If our lives can come to an end surrounded by those who would say of us that we have made a difference in their life –

To be loved and honored and cherished because you helped someone –

Because you took the time to push, pull, nurture, mentor;

To care, to love, to teach, to inspire.

Now that is a story worth reading – a dash to be proud of!


Right now, take a few moments and actually write your own obituary.

Ask yourself these questions:

Aside from the basic facts, what would your obituary say if it were written right now?

What do you hope it would say?

What do you want it to say?

If your great-grandchildren were to read it, what would you want them to know about you?

Take a few moments right now to write your own obituary – what you want it to say.

Because it’s not too late to change your story.

You are forgiven for the life you’ve lived up until now,

And you are not too old to do better, with God’s help.

So write the obituary you want written about you.

And then live it out.

The Answer

If you were to die tonight and find yourself standing before the great judgment throne of God Himself, only to have Him ask you why He should let you into heaven, how would you answer?

It’s an old question, meant to terrify a little and prompt you to clarify whether and what you actually believe.

So, what would you answer?

Have you been good enough to deserve heaven?

Most people, after all, believe that good people go to heaven. But what does it mean to be good? And what qualifies as “good enough?”

The question scares us – because we don’t know the answer. Do we deserve heaven? Are we good enough? Is our faith strong enough to save us? How can we know?

Most people believe good people go to heaven, but let’s think about that for a minute: what does it mean to be good? Are we talking Mother Theresa good? Or just not-Hitler good? A lot of people think it’s about keeping the 10 Commandments, but a lot of those same people probably couldn’t name 5 Commandments, let alone keep them perfectly. And by the way, Jesus made the 10 Commandments even more impossible to keep perfectly: You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:21-29).

To make matters worse, the Bible is pretty openly opposed to the “good people go to heaven” view. In fact, according to the Bible, good people do not go to heaven. To begin with, there is no such thing as a good person: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).

And Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that “good enough” is not good enough. In order to earn heaven, you have to be better than perfect: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

So if good people don’t go to heaven, who does?

Good people don’t go to heaven; forgiven people do: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

So how do we know if we are forgiven? To (Jesus) all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).

But we want assurances. We want to feel forgiven. I get it, because I’ve been there. There is something wonderfully reassuring about the emotional high of an altar call, where the music soars and you pray that sinner’s prayer for all you’re worth. In that moment, the tears flow because you feel saved. It’s awesome…

Until you walk out the doors, go back home, back to work, back to school, and find that you are still the same person. So you start to wonder if it “took.” What if that wasn’t it? What if you still aren’t really saved? How can you be sure?

You can quit looking to your feelings, which can change with the weather. You can stop trusting your gut, which is directly related to how long it’s been since you last ate. Instead, try looking to the only stability in this crazy universe: God and His Word.

And God’s Word says you are saved: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It’s done. Finished. Completed on the cross, on a very Good Friday 2,000 years ago.

Are you worried, though, that you might not truly believe it? Well, do you want to believe it? Does it make sense to you? Do you want saving faith to be your own? Then it already belongs to you. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t care.

Saving faith means believing that you are not a good person, but you have been rescued anyway by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. To believe there is nothing you can do to make God love you more – or to make God love you less.

Do you want to know the answer? Do you want to know how to be sure you’re saved? It’s because God said so. And God never breaks His Word. Ever.

Do you want an assurance?

  • The next time you’re in the shower, feel the water running over your head and be reminded that you were baptized.
  • Make the sign of the cross to remind you of your baptism.
  • Make the sign of the cross in the mirror and tell yourself, “You are a baptized child of God.”
  • When you take communion, remember the body that was sacrificed for you. As the wine passes over your lips and tongue, remember the blood that was shed for you.
  • When you are tempted to beat yourself up for your failures, wash your hands and remember you have been washed clean.
  • When you are tempted to look down on others because you think you’re better than them, instead look up and remember that you both stand under heaven.

We don’t need to be afraid of whether or not salvation “took,” or whether or not we have been good enough, because our Heavenly Father gave us His Word that His grace is enough.

The Truth is, you already knew the answer. You probably learned it a long time ago, when things seemed much simpler:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

How can you know you’re really saved? Because God said so. And that is enough.

Women

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

As we head out of this Mother’s Day and head back to our regularly scheduled lives, I would like to say “thank you” once more to those who have walked, are walking and will walk in the calling of motherhood. And to those who have for any number of reasons not been called to be a mother, please know that you, too, are appreciated.

I know that you are overwhelmed. I also know you live your life in fear that you will not measure up to the impossible standard of womanhood you carry.

Your heart breaks because you don’t feel like you could ever live up to the high calling of a wife or mother.

You struggle with the social pressures and desires of your mind for your career and the desires of your heart to be with your family.

You struggle with the expectations of appearance vs. your desire for comfort. You want to feel and look beautiful, but you don’t want to be objectified or passed over because of your appearance.

And all of that makes you feel like a failure as a woman, because it feels like you are the only woman who doesn’t have it all figured out.

But what you don’t understand is that through the blood of Jesus, your heavenly Father sees you as you were created to be – who you were redeemed to be.

He doesn’t see your failures.

He doesn’t count your imperfections.

He doesn’t compare you to anyone else.

God sees you as the woman you believe you can be – or maybe as the woman you think you could never be.

Whoever you are, in whatever roles you are called to serve, God has gifted, equipped and called you to serve there.

You have been saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus.

And Jesus died to save sinful women; to save women who lose their temper too easily with their children and women who resent their husbands; to save women who never feel adequate and women who are obsessed with appearances; to save women who carry too much and women who don’t do enough; to save women who feel they have to be strong and women who feel too weak; to save women who feel like they have to hold everything together and women who feel like if they stop moving 100 miles per hour they will fall apart; to save women who struggle to leave abusive relationships and women who are terrified they’ll go back to them; to save the women who are offended by this post and the women who needed it.

Women like you.

You are loved and you are forgiven. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a marvelous work of God. God has called you to be uniquely you and not someone else. He has called you to trust in His great love for you – and He has called you to show His love to those around you.

So thank you for being who He has called you to be (whether you feel like it or not), and thank you for being in our lives.

May the God of grace and mercy bless all women, Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day.