Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Elementary school. Sybil.

Sybil was poor and cross-eyed. She wore homemade dresses and thick glasses. They called her Four-Eyes.

The class bully got in her face and shouted, “You’re ugly, Sybil. Ugglllyyyy!” Kids laughed. Sybil cried.

She was too timid to talk back; too hurt to fight back. She just cowered alone in the corner until the bell rang. Wounded. Humiliated.

Junior high. Edward.

Edward was fat. His shirts were too tight and his pants too short. They didn’t make clothes to fit people like Edward.

He looked like a blimp. And that’s what they called him—Blimpy.

Edward didn’t have any friends. Not one. He didn’t hang around for extracurricular activities after the closing bell. Why stick around for more pain?

High school. Irma.

Irma was gangly and awkward. They called her Olive Oil, teased her about boyfriends she didn’t have, and dates that were only dreams. (No one ever asked Irma for a date.)

Irma was saucy. She’d square her shoulders, stiffen her spine, look you in the eye and with a defiant toss of her head, turn and walk away. (And cry into her pillow at night I suspect.)

College. Richard.

Richard was shaped funny. He had small shoulders and a concave chest and swayed back that sunk into a bulging belly and ponderous posterior. They called him Pearshape.

Richard didn’t buddy with anybody. He seldom spoke. And never smiled. He roomed alone. Studied alone. Ate alone. He never joined any clubs or attended any student events. He went out of his way to avoid contact with “Pearshape” hecklers.

It wasn’t Sybil’s fault that she was poor and plain.
It wasn’t Edward’s fault that he was bulky.
It wasn’t Irma’s fault that she was uncoordinated.
It wasn’t Richard’s fault that generations of genes had conspired against him.

I have no idea where they are, any of them. I hope life has treated them better later than it did earlier. I pray that they’re doing well and that they’re happy.

But I’m not just concerned about them. I’m concerned about me. Sometimes my tongue outruns my brain and spouts hurtful words. Even when I don’t say it I sometimes look at people and think it … Ugly. Fat. Stupid. Obnoxious.

As if my opinion is worth beans. It isn’t. As if my assessment makes me superior to those I judge. It doesn’t. My critical evaluation of others doesn’t really say much about them. But it says a lot about me … Harsh. Haughty. Unloving. Judgmental.

Father, I want to be like you. You don’t judge a person’s worth by his financial status, by her dress size, by where he lives, by what she drives. Every person is special to you.

Help me to see every person as beautiful. An original. Valuable. Special. Loved. A child of the King.

Please Father, make me nice.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Abraham and Sarah would soon have a hundred candles on their cake. They had no children, not one. So when God told them their descendants would be as numberless as the stars they cracked up.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” God asked. “I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

And sure enough, the following year Sarah cuddled a baby in her lap.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Mary was a typical teenager—ponytail, braces on her teeth—when angel Gabriel showed up at her door and told her she was going to have a baby.

“Get outta here. I’m a virgin. Unmarried.”

This is God’s doing Gabriel said—your baby will be “the Son of God.”

And by the way, your cousin Elizabeth “is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

God’s good at impossible. Look at those three babies …

Isaac, Sarah’s Baby

When Isaac grew up he and his wife Rebekah had a son. They named him Jacob. God changed his name to Israel.

And there you go. Your Old Testament is wrapped in a package labeled Israel.

John, Elizabeth’s Baby

Angel Gabriel told Zechariah, “Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John … he will be great in the eyes of the Lord … He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival.”

And there you go. John set the stage for Jesus’ ministry and pointed his first disciples to him. “Among those born of women there is no one greater than John,” Jesus said.

Jesus, Mary’s Baby

“He will be great,” said Gabriel. “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David … his kingdom will never end.” And he whispered in Joseph’s ear, “You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And there you go. From that day ’til this, wherever his message has gone, lives have changed. People have become compassionate and generous—built churches, hospitals, schools, orphanages; emptied their pockets and given their lives for others.

Even so, his earthly life had a brutal ending. Whips. Nails. Thorns. Spit. Scorn. The Cross. He wanted out—“offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death” (Heb. 5:7).

In the garden he fell face down on the ground and prayed to be delivered from the ghastly ordeal. “Abba, Father … everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.”

“Yet,” he added … “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Nothing is impossible with God—but not everything that is possible passes the test of his will. If he had stepped in and snatched the cup of death from the lips of his Son, the plan he put in place for our salvation would have been aborted.

Let your pains be made plain, your frustrations be made clear, your wishes be made known.

Level with him. Tell him where you hurt and what you want …

But don’t forget the P.S.

P.S. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

Hope Solo is impossible!

Hope was Goalkeeper for Team USA that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup. She guards her territory with a sneer and dives like she’s on springs instead of cleats. She played every minute of the seven-game World Cup tournament, had five shutouts and an outlandish 567 minute stretch where she didn’t give up a single goal. “She made saves that nobody else in the world can make,” said one of her teammates. When Hope is in goal, opposing teams find it almost impossible to score.

She’s that good!

Then there’s the other side to Hope. Talk about impossible! Her off-field behavior is almost impossible for her coaches and teammates to tolerate. She makes disastrous decisions—is no stranger to handcuffs and courtrooms. On the field she is talented and smart, the best. Off the field she’s a train wreck.

She’s that bad!

Hope Solo is impossible, and will never change some say.

Don’t be so sure.

What the press feeds us may be less than the full story. Scuttlebutt about misconduct is often long on rumor and short on facts.

Hope’s game-day self-discipline is five-star. There’s a good chance it will show up in other arenas of her life as well.

People that we’re certain will never change, sometimes do.

Every church has a few people in its pews that are a surprise to everyone—even their relatives.

Two of the most effective church elders I’ve ever worked with were off-the-rails bad boys well into their adult years. No one could have imagined them showing up in church, much less morphing into leaders.

Jesus told a tale about a farmer who strapped on his seed bag and started scattering the seed?

Some fell on a path that was hard as concrete—packed solid by sandals, hooves, and wheels. Seeing the seed on the surface, the birds chirped, “Lunch!” It pictures hearts that are hard as steel, cold as ice.

Some fell on soil that was shallow—a thin layer of dirt over a shelf of solid rock. The plants sprouted quickly, and withered just as quickly because they had no roots. It pictures hearts that enthusiastically receive the message, but have no hang-in-there grit. At the slightest difficulty or disappointment they’re AWOL.

Some fell among weeds. The plants grew, but so did the weeds—and the weeds won. It pictures hearts consumed by busy days of worry, work, and wealth. They have too many irons in the fire to get serious about God.

Some fell on good soil and produced a bumper crop—thirty, sixty, even a hundred times return.

Get this straight—God hasn’t appointed any of us to his Cabinet as Spiritual Soil Scientist. We aren’t qualified to be soil appraisers, rating this one yes, this one no, this one maybe. We may grade the soil hard, shallow, or worldly—but in another season it may be receptive, fertile, and productive.

“Ah, Sovereign Lord,” said Jeremiah, “you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17).

God must have liked that line, because moments later he adopted it: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27).

 When Jesus spoke of the seeming impossibility of certain people entering the kingdom, his befuddled disciples asked, “Who then can be saved.”

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk. 18:27).

Write that sentence on your heart. It will come in handy when you have doubts about what God can do and who God can change.

Invite God into your impossibility.

“Have mercy on us!”

Jesus ignored them, but they stayed on his heels, trailing him to his pad.

He knew what these blind guys wanted—they wanted their eyes fixed.

And he knew what he wanted—he wanted them to answer a question …

“Do you believe I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord.”
“According to your faith will it be done to you” (Matt. 9:29).

According to your faith … Do you get the impression that a cure was conditional? That a weighing of faith was in play here? That he was saying he would heal them, but only to the level of their trust? That they would see only as much as their faith permitted them to see?

If that’s an accurate reading, do you think they walked away with different degrees of sight—one with 20/20, the other seeing blurred shapes but unable to make out defining features?

Ask us if we believe the promises of God and we’ll say of course we do. But Jesus’ tête-à-tête with this blind duo leaves us questioning how much we would have been able to see if we had been one of those fellows—and wondering if the same limits apply to our faith today.

Real faith is not a breezy belief that God exists and the Bible is true. It’s a question of how deeply we believe. How much we’re willing to let our weight down on his promises. How far we’ll go before we begin to question.

When God told Abraham to leave his home and his people and begin the hike to a mystery destination, his faith won the day—he “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).

But when God told him he would have many descendants and be the father of many nations, his faith was diluted by doubt—he was an old man and had no children for heaven’s sake.

Eleven years after God made that promise, Sarah hatched a plan to fast-track its fulfillment—told Abraham to sleep with her maid-servant and get this show on the road. And Abraham bought into the shabby scheme.

But God said huh uh! Said the promised son would be the offspring of Abraham and Sarah, not Abraham and a backup.

Then God went silent and sat on his hands for another thirteen years before he got around to repeating the promise. By this time Abraham was ninety-nine and Sarah was pushing ninety. The geriatric couple giggled—God had to be joshing them.

But when baby Isaac came howling into the world Abraham’s faith took a giant leap. When God told him to sacrifice that son he didn’t balk. Now his faith had muscle—he believed that “if Isaac died God would bring him back to life again” (Heb. 11:19 TLB).

In the New Testament Jesus commended only two people for their faith—both Gentiles by the way.

One was a Roman centurion who brushed off Jesus’ offer to go heal his servant, saying he wasn’t worthy to have Jesus set foot in his house. “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

“I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith,” Jesus said

The other was a Greek mom who kept pestering Jesus to heal her daughter. He tried to send her packing, but she would have none of it.

“Woman, you have great faith,” he said.

He is able to do astounding things—“much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20 NCV).

The searching question is, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“According to your faith will it be done to you.”

“God always keeps his promises” (Num. 23:19 CEV). “There is no question that he will do what he says” (Heb. 10:23 TLB).

 He has given us “great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). Let’s take a peek at a handful of them under five headings.

Guidance

Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths (Prov. 3:6 NLT).

Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh. 1:9 NLT).

I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you (Isa. 41:10 NLT).

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matt. 7:7).

Assurance

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).

Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you (Ps. 50:15 NLT).

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life (Ps. 138:7).

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1 ESV).

God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid (Isa. 12:2).

God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you” (Heb. 13:5 NLT).                              

Forgiveness

Praise the Lord, my soul, and do not forget how kind he is. He forgives all my sins … As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us (Ps. 103:2-3, 12 TEV).

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist … I have redeemed you (Isa. 44:22).

I wipe away your sins because of who I am. And so, I will forget the wrongs you have done (Isa. 43:25 CEV).

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine (Isa. 43:1 ESV).

Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you … do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (Jn. 14:27).

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you (Isa. 26:3 NLT).

In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world (Jn. 16:33 NCV).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).

God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7 NCV).

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you (Isa. 46:4 NLT).

Victory

The Lord will work out his plans for my life (Ps. 138:8 NLT).

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble (Ps. 32:7).

The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Pet. 5:10).

What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later (Rom. 8:18 NLT).

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory (Ps. 73:24).

And this is what he promised us—even eternal life (1 Jn. 2:25).

In Times Like These

Jun
2015
06

They were a lot like us—distressed and depressed about their nation.

Their sins had caught up with them and now they were in captivity. Their nation paid a high price for their sins.

We sometimes wonder if there is any hope for ours, for our beloved country is a miserable mess—a cauldron of crime, immorality, abuse, injustice, corruption.

But don’t write God out of the story. In those long-ago days he dispatched Isaiah with the charge, “Comfort, comfort my people” (Isa. 40:1).

In Isa. 40 the prophet goes to work, reminding Judah—and us—that God is more powerful and active than we think. His speech had four points (one more than the standard sermon) …

1) Consider what God has done.

Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth …? (v. 12 NLT).

Our nation is brimful of scholars and scientists—some arrogantly swaggering to podium and press to belittle those who believe in God. But God does things and knows things that unbelieving intellectuals can’t match—like holding oceans in his hand and knowing the weight of the earth. So none of the God-is-a-fantasy-for-the-ignorant drivel should shake our faith in our omnipotent Father.

2) Consider the nations.

The nations are like a drop in a bucket … Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing (vv. 15, 17).

The nations that had God’s ancient people shaking in their sandals no longer exist. And nations whose cutthroat rulers scare the daylights out of us today don’t frighten God in the least. Rogue nations never win very long. When all is said and done they don’t call the shots, God does.

3) Consider the creation.

God sits on his throne above the circle of the earth, and compared to him, people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the skies like a piece of cloth … Look up to the skies. Who created all these stars? (vv. 22, 26 NCV).

Think about the size of this world, the more than seven billion of us that populate it, and the vast sky above it hosting millions of stars billions of miles from where we bunk. The cosmos dwarfs us. God dwarfs the cosmos. He made it and he controls it.

4) Consider the powerful.

God brings down rulers and turns them into nothing. They are like flowers freshly sprung up and starting to grow. But when God blows on them, they wilt and are carried off like straw in a storm (vv. 23, 24 CEV).

Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin—thugs long gone. World rulers have terrifying power, but it’s temporary. Politicians don’t decide the ultimate destiny of nations. God “determines the course of world events; he removes kings and sets others on the throne” (Dan. 2:21 NLT).

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“Comfort, comfort my people.”

As Paul Harvey once said, “It’s good in times like these to remember that there have always been times like these.”

Better to listen to the prophet than to the Chicken Littles that screech “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

Priorities

May
2015
02

John Broadbanks had a serious flaw. He could not say “No.”

A gifted speaker, John was inundated with invitations, to which he always said “Yes.”

John was on a roll. His church was flourishing; his fame was growing; his wife was charming.

Another blessing came in the form of a baby girl who joined the Broadbanks family. A year or so later a baby brother arrived to keep her company.

Speaking invitations continued to increase. John couldn’t bring himself to say “No,” so he was away from home more and for longer periods of time.

“The dog that follows everybody isn’t much good to anybody” goes the saying.

Now for a quite different story …

Irene was washing dinner dishes and chatting with a neighborhood friend when her four-year-old son barged through the door with a picture in his hand. Tugging on her skirt, he pointed to the picture and started asking questions.

Irene broke off the conversation with her friend, dried her hands, sat down, lifted the tyke onto her lap, and spent a long time totally focused on him and his questions.

When he left the room, her friend flashed her a thumbs-up for ditching her chores to give undivided attention to her son.

“I expect to be washing dishes for the rest of my life,” Irene said, “but I will never again have the chance to spend the time with my son that I just had. And he will never again ask me the questions that he just asked.”

There will be more questions of course … Why is grass green? Why do trees grow right side up? Why did God make spinach? Why do pets die? Why does God let people get sick? Where do grandmas go when they die? What does God look like?

There is something immeasurably good about never being too busy to give attention to those who are most important to you … even when you are too busy.

Another word about John Broadbanks …

He finally got it right. He learned to say “No.” He sensed the loneliness of his wife Lilian, saw the need of his presence in the lives of his children, and came across a verse that knifed deep into his soul …

 Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest (Deut. 12:13).

 John Broadbanks revamped his priorities. He learned to say “Yes” to the most important things and “No” to less important things.

Now about you …

What are your priorities? This is where self-deception is the flavor of the day, so get clear-eyed honest.

Here’s the bottom line: the way you spend your time reveals your real priorities.

And here’s an important question: do you map your priorities, or do you allow others to hijack your schedule? When someone makes demands that take command of what you do and when you do it, they are controlling your life; you are living for their priorities, not yours.

The problem with caving in to the demands of others is that there is no “Off” switch—no last item on the to-do list; mark one entry off and two take its place.

Frantically running from one crisis to the next looks less like serving the Messiah and more like trying to be one.

Limping ashore after decades at sea, he was greeted by taunt …

“You don’t have much to show for all those years do you?”

“No, not much,” said the old salt who had spent years sailing with Sir Francis Drake.  “I’ve been cold, hungry, sick, scared, and shipwrecked. But I am certain of one thing; I have been with the greatest captain who ever sailed the seas.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Joshua was preparing to lead Israel in their first foray into Canaan. Near Jericho he happened on a man with sword drawn.

“Are you a friend or an enemy?” Joshua asked.

“I am neither. I have come as the commander (captain) of the Lord’s army” (Josh. 5:13 NCV).

In other words, “I’m not here to take sides; I’m here to take charge.”

It was a theophany, an Old Testament glimpse of the pre-incarnate Christ taking command of God’s army as it set out to take possession of the Promised Land.

In the New Testament Jesus is called the captain of our salvation, “bringing many children to glory” (Heb. 2:10).

 Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain! was a tribute to Abraham Lincoln in celebration of the end of the Civil War. The words comfortably adapt to Jesus, our captain; the end of earthly combat, victory achieved …

 O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting …

 The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won …

 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

 You don’t have much to show for all those years of serving Jesus do you Christian?

Yes. Yes I do.

Not that there haven’t been problems and disappointments. I’ve been hurt and heartbroken. Lost loved ones. Experienced many why-me and what-ifs. Been slow to learn and weak in faith. Sinned often. Made senseless mistakes. Seldom gotten it right the first time, and more often than not messed up on the do-overs.

But the Lord has been compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Moved by mercy he has not treated me as my sins deserve. Instead, he has removed my transgressions as far from me as the east is from the west. Moved by grace he has given me what I don’t deserve—salvation.

I have been justified, redeemed, reconciled, and cleansed.

He has adopted me—one of his children being brought to glory.

I have a love letter from him, part of which I read every day. It is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

I have open-door access to him. Nor am I alone when I talk to him—both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying and interceding for me. And when I can’t come up with the right words the Spirit translates my silence into words and delivers them to the Father.

I have the fellowship of the saints, dear ones in whom I delight—a family of brothers and sisters that mean the world to me.

And of this I am certain … I have been with the greatest captain who ever sailed the seas. He knows these waters and how to pilot the ship safely to port—bringing many children to glory.

O Captain! My Captain!

Hello and Goodbye

Mar
2015
07

It all started with a simple hello. You didn’t know it at the time, but that hello was the opening curtain of your love story—a story that would play out too fast, the goodbye of the closing curtain coming too soon.

The whole story seemed compressed into just five words: Hello. I love you. Goodbye.

You cry. You smile. Cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. The story of your life—your love story—wouldn’t have unfolded so beautifully if that special person hadn’t stepped in to help write it and be your co-star in it.

As painful as the goodbye is, there was so much good between the hello and the goodbye that you wouldn’t trade the life you had together for the world.

Goodbyes are tough because they leave behind a trail of unspoken words and unfinished business. You wish that you had said so much more between the hello and the goodbye—said thank you, and I appreciate you, and you mean the world to me more often. Still, “I love you” was the theme song, and it was enough.

There were happy times and sad times. “Through good and through bad,” you promised. “In sickness and in health,” you pledged. “Until death do us part,” you vowed. And you honored every word of it.

You fought life’s battles together. Won some. Lost some. But always had each other’s back. From hello to goodbye you soldiered on, shoulder to shoulder. And you are certain that your soldier was the best that ever put on a uniform.

How blessed you are to have had someone that makes saying goodbye so hard—a special person who lived a life that is worthy of your grief.

Goodbye is the word you sidestepped as long as you could. You knew it had to come someday, but avoided talking about it, or even thinking about it. The calendar was running out of pages. You knew that, but didn’t think it was yet December. Then the day came when you couldn’t dodge it any longer, and had to whisper to yourself, “I guess this is the part where we say goodbye.”

But this goodbye isn’t forever. It’s more like Albert Brumley’s song, I’ll Meet You in the Morning. Or “See ya later.” The hello lasted a long time. The goodbye is just for a little while.

Every day of missing your special love has a bright side to it, because even though it is one day further from the last time you saw each other, it is one day closer to the next time you will.

You cry because of the loss, but hold in grateful remembrance a string of beautiful memories.

Robert Raines said it well …

As we separate and the ties unbind and the threads of our lives disentangle, let us believe in our hearts that nothing we have shared together that is good will be lost, that all we were takes its honored place in our life’s journey … that much we cannot communicate nonetheless endures, that nothing can separate us from our love.

The Good Book says it best …

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live again (Jno. 11:25).

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore (Rev. 21:4).

On April 14, 2004, Marine Corporal Jason Dunham’s squadron was manning a checkpoint near the Syrian border in western Iraq when an Iraqi soldier lobbed a grenade into the unit. Dunham dived on the missile and died shielding his comrades from the explosion with his own body.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Matthew Lopez said, “Cpl. Dunham clearly understood the situation and attempted to block the blast of the grenade from his squad members. His action saved the lives of his fellow Marines.”

At a White House ceremony, President Bush presented the prestigious Medal of Honor to Dunham’s parents, saying, “Corporal Dunham gave his own life so that the men under his command might live.”

“Hero” is the word we use to describe a person who does what Dunham did. But it comes up short, for there is no word to adequately define someone that does something as big as intentionally dying so that others can live.

Who knows why a person does such a thing or what is going on in his mind when he does it? The cynic might say that the man must be insane; that no one in his right mind would willingly give his life for others, especially for some he hardly knows.

The idealist, on the other hand might say that sometimes the human spirit is capable of pulling off extraordinary acts of courage and valor.

But while it is difficult to know why a person would make such a sacrifice, it is not so difficult to imagine how we might react if it was our life that was saved.

For the rest of our life we would have flashbacks of a scene frozen in time, seeing the mangled body of the person who died so we could live. To our own dying day we would wish that we could have stopped him from doing what he did. But since we couldn’t, his death would lay an enormous burden on us.

We couldn’t live just for self any longer. We would have to also live for the one who died for us. Since we would be alive because of him, we would want to be sure that he now lived through us. If what he would have done with his life is to be done, we would now have to be the one to step up and do it. We would want to be involved in what he was involved in that he never got to finish. The things that were important to him would become important to us. The things he loved we would now have reason to love.

Because he cared enough to lay down his life for us, we would become passionately concerned about others, caring enough to invest our life for their good. His compassion for us would forever shape our compassion for others.

We would feel our debt so deeply that the only way we could come close to paying it would be by living a life as brave and sacrificial as his death was. We would feel obliged to honorably wear the uniform he so nobly wore.

We would be driven to find our purpose in life. “The two most important days in your life,” said Mark Twain, “are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” We would be obsessed with finding the “Why?” Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?

Above all, we would feel compelled to live our life for what it really is—a life that is not ours by due rights, to live however we choose, but a life that is ours only because he preserved it by dying in our place. We would live this life that has been gifted to us in a way that would honor him and bring an approving smile to his lips.

Every last one of us is in this picture you know …

When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us … Very few people will die to save the life of someone else … But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:6-8 NCV).