Questions About Our Future

It’s happening more and more. Famous people I grew up watching and admiring are dying. Peggy Lipton of the late 60’s, early 70’s show “Mod Squad” passed away on May 11. Tim Conway, who made all of us laugh especially with his role on the “Carol Burnett Show” during its 1967-78 run, died on May 14. In between those two was the passing of 97 year old actress Doris Day on May 13. Though her film and music career began back in the late 30’s, she was extremely successful during the 50’s and 60’s. But I best remember her in “The Doris Day Show” during the late 60’s and early 70’s. She may be best known for the song “Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).

As a young boy I recall hearing and liking this song. I’m sure the fact that Doris Day was pretty didn’t hurt my opinion! I haven’t really thought about this song until I learned of her death and heard the song on the news. If you’re not familiar with it, here are the lyrics. (by Jay Livingstone / Ray Evans)

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here's what she said to me

Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart, what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said

Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly

Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be

At the heart of the song is a young girl asking: what will I be? … what lies ahead? … and then her kids asking her the same … what will I be? Those are legitimate questions we’re still asking. But it’s interesting that in this song there’s an expectation of being pretty, rich, having rainbows day after day, and being handsome. Sure, the lyrics indicate we don’t really know and can only ultimately say, “Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see” but the fact the questions of being pretty, rich, handsome, and endless rainbows indicates that was the anticipated way of life.

We should still think about the future and ask, “What will I be?” and “What lies ahead?” Great questions. But I suspect more people today are asking follow up questions more like, “Will I be able to land and keep a good job?” “Will I be cancer free?” “Will I be a victim of violent crime?” “Will my marriage survive?” “Will I be able to enjoy retirement?” “Will my children turn out okay?” “Will I end up being medicated for depression?” And as Christians we ask other questions like, “Will I always wrestle with this same sin?” “Will I continue to be faithful in serving the Lord or fall away like others I know?” “Will I learn to forgive others as Christ has forgiven me?” “Will Americans continue to enjoy the religious freedoms we’ve enjoyed for so long?”

The fact is that life is hard and we realistically know that instead of beauty, wealth, and endless rainbows we should expect difficulties. But at the same time, we have the hope that God is good and actively involved in our lives. He demonstrated this on the cross. Jesus actually says it well in John 16:33 - “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

What question are you wrestling with as it relates to your future? We can say much more than “whatever will be, will be.” We don’t have to resign ourselves to fatalism, determinism, stoicism, or chance. We can rest and rejoice in a personal God who is actively working all things to His own glory and our good.

We Need the PCB

This past week I had the privilege and joy of meeting with several other pastors in the annual Bangladesh Partnership meeting, this year hosted by Briarwood here in B’ham. Brothers from Montana, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Asia gathered to discuss how we can better support, encourage, and partner with the Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh (PCB).

I was first introduced to the PCB by Bill Nikides, another missionary CPC has supported for a number of years. Bill is still actively involved in the Bangladesh work, as well as several other countries where his expertise in missiology is needed. I remember him giving me several compelling reasons why this work was important for Community to get involved in. But one comment he made really stood out … he said something along the lines of “the PCB doesn’t need us as much as we need the PCB.” … and he was so right! While the PCB truly does benefit from the involvement of the US churches, I can personally attest to the fact that I have benefited far more than any contribution I can even conceive of making. Yes, that happened once again during this most recent meeting. Allow me to explain.

Though the finances of the partnership are in really good shape, every report often needs some explanation, especially when money is involved. One question involved an apparent shortfall in the budget. As the explanation was given it was apparent there was actually a surplus. But the explanation provided an opportunity to explain a very different perspective on money, budgets, salaries, ministry, etc. In our way of doing things here in the US, we would typically cut most any budget item before we cut a person’s salary. But in Bangladesh they would see the shortfall as a blessing and not hesitate to cut salaries, including the pastor’s. Their understanding is that it is God’s way of helping the pastor examine his heart, to determine whether he is in the ministry for personal / material / financial gain or in it for the sake of Jesus. While a few Bengali pastors have left the job because they didn’t get paid, the large majority persevere in the midst of this suffering, shortfall, want, and stress. They count it joy to be tested in this manner and gladly continue in ministry, believing that what they are doing has eternal significance and isn’t contingent on how much money they have in the bank that month.

So as I transition into a ministry where I have to raise my own support I’m greatly challenged by these Bengali brothers who so willingly persevere even when they lack proper financing. I often find myself more concerned about money than the unbeliever I’m seeking to reach out to. I often get anxious and worried about the possibility of not raising enough support. I frequently lack faith in God’s provision, faithfulness, and sufficiency. I often seek to impose my standards on what I expect God to do rather than trust Him for daily bread. Yes, I know I have the responsibility raise adequate support. I have financial obligations, bills to pay, a family to support, and a future to consider. But I long for the faith of these PCB pastors who are willing to faithfully serve Christ regardless!

Please join me in praying for the PCB. This church faces more daily obstacles than we likely ever will in our entire lifetime. Pray for their safety in the face of persecution, for church planting efforts, for finances, for leadership development, and for many conversions among the Bangladesh peoples. Also, pray for me to have faith as I press deeper into the ministry of evangelism.

What's Your Mission?

Hopefully you were able to participate in this past weekend’s missions events. Both Saturday night and Sunday morning we were treated with reports and updates from various missionaries. So much good stuff … so many things to process … so many things to pray for. Not only did we hear from missionaries this past weekend, but the prior Sunday we heard from John and Prisy Stodghill. And to continue with a missions emphasis, Community will participate in this week’s Bangladesh Partnership meeting in B’ham to support the work of the Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh. If you’re like me the question at this point is, “Where do I go from here?”

Surely work the Stodghills do with Muslims is an incredible and important work. You mustn’t underestimate the significance of the training Brad Taylor gives to pastors in South America, Africa, and India. Nobody would suggest that the work Lifeline does to support and build families is not of great importance. Don’t forget the amazing ministry Raul Pacheco has with International students at Troy University. Laura Morgan’s support and encouragement of missionaries around the world is extremely needed and beneficial. Adam Venable’s work on the campus of UAB is reaching students that will impact the world in so many ways. The Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh is enjoying healthy growth in the 8th most populated nation in the world. My work in evangelism puts me on the front line with unbelievers and also in a place to train other pastors and churches.

So which of these ministries / missionaries is doing the most important work? Which mission should you focus on and devote yourself to? Which mission work has the most potential to change the world?

Are you thoroughly confused yet? Most Christians are when it comes to missions. We know we should be doing something mission related but don’t know exactly what. So, we wait until we have a clearer vision. Maybe we should go overseas … or perhaps get involved in a local mission … or likely get some training before we do anything … or probably before we do anything we need to spend a season praying and seeking counsel … or maybe we should just get plugged in to something the church is already doing … yet there are so many other needs in the community and world … so we wait a bit longer for the vision to become clearer and THEN we’ll start. The vision thing ends up taking too long to figure out, so we wait some more. This cycle repeats itself over and over and we seldom actually ever get around to doing mission work, but hopefully one day we will. It’s sort of a paralysis by analysis type thing. I’m really not trying to be too hard on anyone, but just stating the reality of how the average Christian processes the idea of mission.

So the question remains, “Where do we go from here?” I’d suggest a couple of really simple things. The first is whatever you’re involved in today is what and where God has called you. You really don’t have to wait around for a clearer vision of loving your neighbor, serving your co-worker, encouraging your fellow student, greeting a stranger, showing grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it, offering support to the broken-hearted, being merciful to the poor, helping to bring justice to the oppressed, announcing the good news of Jesus to the unbeliever, etc. Whatever is in front of you today is your God-ordained mission field and you are God’s ambassador. So press forward in your weakness, uncertainty, fear, insecurity, and timidity yet know that God uses such people to accomplish the amazing work of mission. I assure you that every missionary you admire wrestles with the exact same issues of feeling weak and insignificant. But Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth repeatedly reminds us that his weakness provides the context for God’s strength to be displayed. The second suggestion is also simple … let God handle the big vision thing. Perhaps He will call some of us to go overseas. Perhaps He will mobilize some of us to be more involved in local community missions. Perhaps He will lead some of us to get more training. But I contend that as we’re engaged in doing daily mission where we already are, those bigger vision related issues seem to just come … not naturally, but rather super-naturally through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So today, engage in ministry where you are. God has some divine appointments already scheduled for you throughout the day. Don’t neglect them.

Painting in the House

We’re beginning the process of some much needed painting inside the Boykin home. When I say “we” I actually mean Chris Frank. But, come to think of it, I am doing some of the prep work of cleaning, patching a few holes, etc. so I’m going to stick with the “we” comment.

Moving furniture around reveals how much dirt and trash accumulates over time. Yuk. Glad it’s all going to be cleaned and have a fresh coat of paint. Chris does a great job (see hallways around the nursery/MDO area at church) and I’m looking forward to the upgrade in the appearance, look, and feel of our home. It’ll be a great improvement over the current condition.

As excited as I am about this, I remember being just as excited years ago when we last painted. There was a part of me back then that felt, “surely this will be the thing that gives us long-term satisfaction.” And even now, there’s a part of me that thinks, “After this paint job, we’re going to keep this place clean and may never have to paint again.” I know that’s not true, but I do sort of think it. Deep down I know that home ownership is a never-ending process of cleaning, maintaining, upgrading, repairing, painting, etc. but I also cling to a false hope that I won’t have to do it again after this time.

Too often I approach Christianity in this same way. I do some cleaning, straightening, rearranging, repair a few bad spots, put on a fresh coat of paint, and somehow think this is what pleases God. Then soon I realize it didn’t exactly work out like I hoped it would so I repeat the process and again convince myself that this time I was serious about it and probably won’t have to struggle the dirt, filth, stain, and decay of sin again. Basically, and unfortunately, I live out the Christian life by just cleaning up and covering over my sin with a fresh coat of “doing something for Jesus” and think everything is going to be okay.

Just last Sunday we celebrated Easter. And though we recognize the importance of Jesus’ resurrection every week by worshipping on Sunday, Easter really presses us to consider the resurrection and how it impacts our lives. The beauty of the resurrection is that we don’t have to just manage our sin, clean it up a bit, and put on a fresh coat of obedience to make ourselves look better. As Christians, because we’re in union with Christ, when He was raised to new life, so were we. Here’s how Paul described the Christian life to believers in Rome … and these words are just as true for us today as they were back then.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. - Romans 6:2-10

And if that’s not clear enough, Paul said this to the church in Colossae:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses. - Colossians 2:11-13

Christianity isn’t a remodeling or upgrading way of life. Rather, it’s a demolition and new construction project that God has worked in us through His Son, Jesus Christ. I trust you who “were also raised with him …” had a great Easter and that the significance of Jesus’ and your own resurrection and new life in Him is the controlling thought of your day.

A Cathedral in Flames

Many of us this past week watched coverage of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on fire. We were shocked and even horrified by the images. Even though we’re not Catholic we felt pain over the thought of losing such a majestic building. We know that Catholicism is full of error and false teachings and that genuine Christianity is not in any way tied to a building, no matter how magnificent. So why did this tragedy have such a powerful effect on us Protestant Gospel-minded folks?

I suspect there are at least a couple of reasons that we mourn the destruction and even rejoice that the building was not completely destroyed. The first is our longing for beauty. Catholic or not, we must all admit the Cathedral of Notre-Dame was a stunningly beautiful work of art. The image of God in us seeks and appreciates this beauty. In my evangelism work I’m discovering that many are using tattoos to introduce beauty into what they would consider an ugly world. Architecture is certainly a means of lifting our hearts and eyes upward towards majesty, transcendence, and glory. Yes, again, we know the church isn’t necessarily linked to a building, but if something is beautiful it speaks of a Creator who made all things good.

The second reason for our sorrow regarding this fire is the sense of loss. Deep down we all want permanence, we want things to last, we’re weary of feeling that life is so transitory. This cathedral was dedicated in 1345, so for nearly 700 years this building has been in place and, in some ways, has helped define Western culture. And even though it wasn’t a complete loss and will surely be repaired to some degree, it will never again be what it was. We would feel the same way if an Egyptian pyramid was leveled, if the Taj Mahal burned down, or if the Great Wall of China was bulldozed. This is why we fight even in our local communities to see historic buildings protected and preserved. We want things to last!

Please don’t think I’m trying to use this event as an object lesson … that nothing is permanent except for God and the Bible. I appreciate the words of Christian architect David Gruesel, “Only a true Philistine could say of the fire, ‘Ah, it was just a bunch of wood and shingles and some pointy spire.’” It’s truly nothing less than a tragedy.

Yet as those who do trust in Christ, we have, in Him, the two things for which we long - beauty and permanence. Especially this week of remembering Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection we behold once again the beauty of His perfect life of obedience and atoning death on the cross. We’re comforted that our lives are given permanence, even unto eternity, because of His death and resurrection. So because we already truly possess what our hearts long for, let us mourn well the destruction of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Let us pray that this beautiful work of art may be restored and once again speak of God’s beauty in a dark and broken world.

Lessons from Cousin Sara

Seth and I are down in Florida for most of this week doing some work with Evangelize Today. So far it’s been a great trip and we’re expecting it to continue that way. But while I’m down here I wanted to run by and see one of my cousins, Sara Elder. She’s about 23 years older than me and has been having some serious health issues the past several months. Not too long ago she had her right leg amputated just below the knee. She’s now having problems with the other leg and said today that there’s a possibility some or all of her toes may have to be amputated.

Sara has been telling me for years that when she dies I’m going to do her funeral. Her deceased husband, Tim Elder, was a PCA pastor, so she respects the fact that I’m a pastor as well. Though she’s currently in a nursing home / rehab facility, her home is in Liberty County, FL where my mom’s family is from. In her own unique way, Sara has been a blessing to us cousins and has helped facilitate much communication and interaction among the family. But she’s hurting right now. Not sure how things will progress with her health wise, but today she blessed me spiritually with some very simple things I want to share.

The first involves her old worn and tattered Bible which has gone missing in the midst of all her moving from home to hospital to rehab to home, back to hospital to rehab, etc. She’s thinking one of her kids may have something to do with that because they recently bought her a new Bible and I suppose want her to start using it! She prefers her old familiar one and hope it turns up soon. In this conversation she made this statement - “The only Bible you need is the one you read.” When I heard this I thought it was rather profound. Many of you may be like me and have a dozen Bibles laying all around, but I think her point is simple … Bibles are meant to be read, not collected. It’s honestly not that impressive to have the latest, best, biggest, nicest Bible if you’re not going to read it. “The only Bible you need is the one you read.”

She also talked about how several people have questioned her about when she’s going to go back home. In the course of speaking of God’s providence, specifically as it relates to her surgeries and ailments, she told me that many years ago when she agreed to “follow Jesus,” she forgot to mention to Him that her commitment didn’t include hospitals or rehab facilities. Obviously using humor, she reminded me that she’s willing to follow Him wherever He takes her, and if it’s into loss and suffering and discomfort then that’s where she’ll willingly go.

I pray for Sara. I admire her faith. I appreciate her desire for God’s Word and submission to His will. I want to be like that!

Success

I was excited to learn that one of my very best childhood friends, John Dudley, has been selected as the new Managing Director, Flight Operations for American Airlines … pretty impressive job!

I remember when John started flying as a 15 year old. He took me flying a number of times while we were young, taking off and landing in some cleared-off field that a friend allowed him to use. It was tons of fun and I always felt safe … not sure it was, but at least I felt that way! John continued his flying adventures at Auburn and graduated with a degree in Aviation Management. If I’m remembering correctly, he frequently flew the Auburn basketball team on trips back during the Charles Barkley days. I’m guessing it was the mid-80s when he landed his first commercial airline job and he obviously hasn’t looked back! While I don’t remember exactly which airline he started with (may have been Piedmont), it eventually merged with USAir. While working with USAir, John was instrumental in developing certain procedures and designs with some of the Airbus planes built in France, specifically the A330. In fact, he essentially lived in Toulouse, France for a time while these aircraft were being designed and built. More recently, he’s represented American Airlines during the design and development the A350. And now, he’ll be the Managing Director, Flight Operations for American Airlines. I’d say that’s a pretty impressive resume that indicates a successful career and life.

It’s caused me to reflect a bit on the meaning of success. We’ve probably all wrestled with this to a degree when someone we know reaches some new height, or accomplishes something spectacular, or receives some prestigious award while we labor on in our daily routine of relative obscurity and mediocrity. What exactly is success? What defines a successful life? Thankfully the Word of God addresses this, telling of Jesus’ disciples arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. (Mark 9) Jesus’ answer was to say that greatness is linked to service, humility, and child-like trust. What we consider to be worldly success doesn’t always mean success in God’s Kingdom.

Consider these wildly successful people. The man who sacrificed a lucrative career in order to better love his wife and raise his children in the Gospel … the woman coming out of the human trafficking industry who is now working hard in a meager job to provide for herself … the man who was bullied in school as a youngster but is now helping coach a Miracle League team … the single mom in Ethiopia who’s husband was murdered by terrorists but who is doing all she can to provide for her children … the student who leaves the lunch table with all her friends and goes over to sit with the new kid … the pastor of the small, rural church of 15 members who faithfully labors to care for his aging congregation … the young man who has assumed responsibility to care for a neighboring widow’s yard … the mom who daily cleans up her kid’s vomit and all other sorts of mess … the person wrestling with same-sex attraction but faithfully submits to the authority of the church and refrains from acting on those desires … the friend who washes and cleans another friend’s car so he’ll have a clean ride home from the hospital following surgery … the spouse who remains faithful to marriage vows despite the behavior of the other spouse … etc. You likely know many such success stories.

Please don’t think I’m trying to minimize the accomplishments of my friend, John. Just so happens he’s a brother in Christ and one of the most humble and servant-hearted people I’ve ever known! I’m really proud of him and hope we get the chance to meet up this summer while I’m in Dallas for General Assembly.

Spring Break!

Here we are in the midst of Spring Break 2019! I hope yours is off to great start. Of course for many folks, spring break means nothing … work must go on. I suppose that in our culture spring break is largely associated with school/college age students getting a week off and then families, who are able, take a short trip or vacation. But I think the history of Spring Break runs deeper than merely giving teachers and students a much needed break from the grind of school.

Some would say that the arrival of spring is a season of fertility and awakening. The ancient Greeks and Romans would celebrate the arrival of spring with the worship and adoration of the god of the vine and fertility , Dionysus or Bacchus. And if you know anything about the culture of those days, the wine-drinking was unrestrained as was much other immoral behavior. But our more modern version of spring break can likely be attributed to Sam Ingram, a swimming coach at Colgate University, who brought his swim team to Ft. Lauderdale in 1936 to train at the first Olympic size swimming pool in Florida. The city, sensing a grand marketing opportunity, in 1938 began hosting the College Coaches Swim Forum at this same pool every year. This even grew as hundreds of swimmers across the country would descend on Ft. Lauderdale every spring. In 1959, Time magazine featured an article, “Beer and the Beach.” One person interviewed for the article was quoted as saying, “It’s not that we drink so much, it’s that we drink all the time.” The event grew and grew, became decidedly raunchier, until when in the late ‘80’s the mayor of Ft. Lauderdale went on national TV and said students are no longer welcome there. Naturally, students found their way to other beaches, domestic and international, and in 1986 MTV launched its first spring break special from Daytona Beach, FL. Today, many beaches, including ones where many of us regularly visit, are overwhelmed during spring break with thousands of people, many engaging in all sorts of bacchanal, immoral, and excessive behaviors. Greek and Roman cultures of old have returned in full force!

I write all this but I don’t suspect that many readers are looking for such a week of debauchery and wickedness. But we are looking for rest, a slower pace, relaxation, less stress, a time to re-energize and re-focus … if only for a week or so. And though the week of spring break is limited in its power to grant such desires, even for those who can and do travel, our God has given us a very simple means to find the much needed rest and energy that we so desperately crave and need. It’s called the Lord’s Day … Sunday … the day the Lord has designated for us to worship Him, to enjoy Him, to find our hope and comfort in Him, to feed upon His grace in a special way that we’re typically unable to during the regular work week. I’m not suggesting we become Pharisaical and think of the sabbath rest as some sort of law that we must do to earn God’s favor and grace; coming to church on Sunday doesn’t merit you God’s favor. Christ has fulfilled the law, He IS our sabbath, and in Him we find true and complete rest from our labors to earn God’s love, and in Him alone we are righteous. However, when we neglect the Lord’s Day, when we view corporate worship as optional and become sporadic in attendance, when we neglect to meet together with the body of Christ as Hebrews 10 warns us not to, when we fail to observe Sunday as a special day and then actually rest from our normal labors, I believe we are dishonoring the Lord and hurting ourselves. We dishonor Him by implying His work on the cross and resurrection isn’t really that significant and not worth honoring on a weekly basis. We hurt ourselves by forsaking the rest and re-focusing that we seriously need.

Name Change for the Church

Years ago when I worked for Reach Out Ministries (now Reach Out Youth Solutions) in Atlanta, one of my co-workers predicted that one day in the future I would pastor of a church and the church would be called, “Burt’s Church of Fun.” Some of you know this and that I often jokingly refer to CPC as Burt’s church of fun. Not because I think church is to be taken lightly or that it’s the church’s job to entertain folks, but rather we should truly enjoy church and that we should be able to laugh at ourselves and one another. Never, ever should theology be compromised or diminished; never should the Gospel be minimized; never should our focus be on anything other than Jesus Christ. (I want to make sure all that I’m saying is in the right context.) But we must be able to laugh and have fun with one another in the family of God. When we hire someone to replace me I guess we’ll have to come up with a new name though I sure hope we keep the “fun” part in it.

I’ve had a couple of very important criteria in CPC’s search for our next Sr. Pastor. One is his outward face to our local community. Will he be involved and easy to relate to in our St. Clair county culture? The second is whether or not the staff would feel comfortable pulling a prank on him and would he be able to laugh at it. I can report that our current candidate, Robby Grames, passes with flying colors (you’ll have to ask the staff to elaborate on this past Tuesday’s prank).

I leave you with some of the humor and wisdom from another PCA pastor, one of my favorites to follow on Twitter, Sammy Rhodes. He’s the RUF campus pastor at University of South Carolina and author of the book, This is Awkward that some men at CPC studied a few summers ago. Enjoy these nuggets … and laugh.

  • Forget personality tests. All you really need to get an honest sense of yourself is a pack of middle schoolers.

  • One fun way to describe Facebook is “Imagine you could read minds in Walmart.”

  • In heaven Chick-fil-A will be open on Sundays.

  • Every kid has a superpower. The ability to stop adults from napping.

  • “Welp, I guess this will just have to do.” - guy who invented meatloaf.

  • Date night ended at Trader Joe’s and I’m not even mad because, 1, at least it wasn’t Target, and 2, chocolate peanut butter cups.

  • The presidential candidate who will get my support in 2020 is the one who plans to make talking before coffee illegal.

  • When God closes a door he lovingly reminds you the doors of Waffle House are open 24/7.

  • At some point every marriage becomes a competition to see who’s more tired.

  • I like to think that when Jesus welcomed the little children and told the crowd their faith must be like a little child’s, that if oatmeal cream pies had been invented, he would have lovingly tossed them around.

  • Sweatpants should be the official uniform of Lent because they’re the best sign you’ve given up.

  • Drank a gallon of water today and I’m officially ready to turn my Instagram into a fitness account.

  • Nothing gets your day going like a panicked “we don’t have anything for the kids’ lunches” early morning grocery store run.

  • My wife corrected me three times as I attempted to fold my jeans KonMari style and it did not spark joy.

  • Meal planning is cool but have you tried Little Caesar’s?

  • There are no donut eating contests because every time you eat donuts it’s a donut eating contest.

Scandalous Grace

Have you heard about “Operation Varsity Blues” by the Department of Justice that has exposed the largest college cheating scam of all time? Around 50 wealthy people, many of whom are well known celebrities, have been charged with paying absurd sums of money to get their children into some elite colleges across the nation. Apparently some paid bribes up to $6.5 million to insure admission into a preferred school. The admissions scandal had many varying aspects to it such as falsifying records, bribing school officials, and fabricating profiles and credentials. Another part of the scam involved getting parents to petition for extended time for their child to take college entrance exams (such as the ACT or SAT), then getting the testing location changed to certain specific locations, where someone else would then complete the exam in place of the actual child.

Those of us who attended college or had children in college are appalled by this fraudulent and scandalous plan. We, and our kids, had to work hard to build a solid high school record, had to study and take the college entrance exams on our own, and weren’t able to throw large sums of cash at people to insure admission to the school of our choice. We, and our children earned it. The idea of someone else doing the actual work or substituting a record that wasn’t earned in the place of the actual student’s performance is truly scandalous and it offends us.

God’s Word clearly opposes cheating, bribery, lying, deception, injustice, and fraud. These actions should be condemned and those involved need to be prosecuted. It’s a scandal that must not be ignored or brushed under the rug.

But it’s this same sense of “scandal” and of wanting to make sure people “earn” their way and “get what they deserve” that makes the Gospel of Jesus Christ so scandalous. The only thing we’ve “earned” is death and eternal condemnation. The only thing we “deserve” is God’s eternal wrath and curse. But Jesus took our place; He took the exam of obedience for us, made a perfect score, and now our record shows that we get full credit. We stand before God not only “as if we’ve never sinned” because of His atoning death, but also “as if we’ve obeyed perfectly” because of His perfect righteous imputed to us. It’s simply scandalous!

But that’s how grace works. No way does this justify a college cheating scam or any other such abuse of the system, but grace is just as much a shock to our senses. We sense we need to earn, merit, or deserve our salvation. It’s why the religious people of Jesus’ day hated Him. It’s why the religious people of today tend to be Pharisaical and legalistic and fight against grace. But praise God for His scandalous grace! Praise God that Jesus took my place and I get admission into the Kingdom because He did the work!