Friday, July 30, 2010

Are We Good Enough?

I have no idea who Howell Ferguson is, but I read this story and it was credited to him.

"Three men meet at the end of a dock on a Florida beach. One of the men is an alcoholic and homeless. The second man is just an average guy. The third man is a fine, honorable man, well respected in the community. Suddenly, the alcoholic runs and jumps off the edge of the dock, landing five feet out into the water. The other two men standing on the dock yell, "What are you trying to do?"
"The man in the water yells back, ‘I’m trying to jump across the Atlantic Ocean!’
"The second man, the average Joe, says, ‘Watch me, I can do better than that!’ He quickly runs across the dock, jumps and lands ten feet out into the water, twice as far as the alcoholic.
"The third man, the outstanding man, laughs and says, ‘That’s nothing, Watch this!’ He backs up about fifty feet and makes a mad dash across the dock and lands twenty feet out, twice as far as average Joe, and four times as far as the homeless alcoholic."

What is the point of this silly story?

It seems to me that, the more we trust in ourselves, the more we get in over our heads. The respected citizen lands further from the shore, and therefore in much greater danger. None of them comes significantly nearer to jumping the ocean.

Two passages, Romans 9:30-10:4 and Ephesians 2:1-10, came to my mind as I read that story. We may be better than others, and that may be our greatest danger.

Romans 9:30-10:4 ESV
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
10:1Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Ephes. 2:1-10 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Snatching Them From the Fire

John was stunned as he turned the corner. Those fire trucks that passed a few blocks back were pulled up in front of his house, and the house was going up in flames. The entire house was engulfed. Before he even had time to take it all in, he was out of the car and running toward the house. His precious stamp collection was in there. All he could think of was that stamp collection. He never stopped to consider the insanity of what he was doing. He was so focused on his pride and joy that he acted without thought.

Mercifully, officer Riley had seen John jump out of his car. The policeman anticipated his path and intercepted him as he neared the house. Without time to explain Riley simply tackled John and restrained his hopeless effort.

I don’t know about you, but I don't think the neighbors will call officer Riley a narrow-minded, hateful bigot for what he did. They might even call him a hero for snatching John from the fire. But a Christian who strives to save another from eternal destruction, that is a different matter. No matter how kindly you try to phrase it, they will often hate you for trying to save them.
Do it anyway.

Jude 1:22-23 And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Tragic Choice

Sometimes it amazes me what people give up for some small, fleeting pleasure. You can buy an official Rawlings Major League Baseball for $14.95, but a fan in Arlington, Texas nearly died as a result of trying too hard to get one. A fan in the upper deck, trying to catch a foul ball, fell approximately 30 feet to the stands below. His fall was broken by landing on top of people below, otherwise the incident might have ended tragically. [As it is he has a fractures to the skull and ankle.]

I trust that none of us would risk our lives for a baseball. We recognize the terrible mistake that this man made. But how often are we risking even more? How often do we, unlike Moses, choose "the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25) and thereby sacrifice our eternal happiness?

Are we too focused on the here and now, too drawn to instant gratification, too undisciplined to seek what truly satisfies?

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?" Matthew 16:24-26, ESV

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." 1 Tim. 6:17-19, ESV