Adsense 1

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

“What difference does Jesus make?”

As I write this, we are in mid November and in an early deep freeze.  The temp last night was 7 degrees, and we have, maybe, 4 inches of snow on the ground. I hear we have broken several temperature records. Yet a few trees still have beautifully colored leaves. This is a picture from my front yard showing the unexpected beauty we are experiencing. In a little more than a week Thanksgiving will be here, and then Christmas is only weeks away.

I often think about how things are now, and what they could be like if just a few minor things had been different.  This is not my way of wishing for something more, but rather a process of giving thanks for the great blessings in my life. I feel tremendously blessed. We don’t have anything extravagant, but we are blessed with all we need and more.

I was thinking along those lines just the other day and my mind went to Jesus and his great sacrifice of Love, for the whole world, but I especially thought of his great love for me and my family. Then the thought came to my mind, “What difference does Jesus make?”.

What if Jesus hadn’t come to Earth? There would be no Christmas of course. Whether you like the way Christmas is celebrated, or not, is irrelevant.  There would have been no nativity and therefore no road from Bethlehem to Calvary, no savior.

Time would be recorded differently, as the Gregorian Calendar which we commonly use counts from the believed date of the nativity of Christ. Many of our laws would be different.  Most of the organizations of the world that do humanitarian aid wouldn’t exist, and the list goes on and on.

That’s not really my point though.  When I consider what difference Jesus makes, I am considering a much more personal scenario. What difference does Jesus make… in my life?

Well, firstly, if it were not for Jesus I would be in some other line of work.  I certainly wouldn’t be a pastor, because there would be no Christianity. 

If not for Jesus in my life, I’m not sure I’d still be at that Caterpillar dealership either.  There was an issue that happened one year that brought me before the Vice President of the company.  After reviewing the facts he determined that my work performance, more specifically my character, spoke for itself.  He dismissed any investigation that could have ended in my termination.  Had I not known Christ and lived Him publically, I very well could have been involved in things that would have cost me my job.  Had my record with the company not demonstrated integrity, I would have likely been dismissed that day.

Without my relationship with the Lord, I probably wouldn’t have met my wife, Tracy, or had my girls.  I first saw Tracy’s beautiful face in church and shortly after, began my pursuit of her.  Even if we had met, it’s likely that we would have separated long ago because without Christ I wouldn’t be half the man I am today, and I would likely have mad devastating choices leading to our demise as a couple.

If it hadn’t been for Jesus I would probably not even be alive today.  Perhaps several things would have already taken me out of this life, such as my teenage love for driving way too fast, but certainly the wasp sting that nearly killed me in 1995 would have done me in.  I believe with all my heart, God spared my life that day to do His work.

I can think of hundreds of other such scenarios, and none of them end well, but the greatest difference that really matters hasn’t been mentioned yet.

What difference does Jesus make?  He makes all the difference!  If not for Him coming to Earth, taking my place in the wrath of God and dying for my sins. I would be unquestionably destined for Hell. There would be no hope for me.  I was too imperfect.  My heart was too stained. My life was too sinful to ever have any hope…  And you were there in the same boat with me.

Thank God for the difference Jesus makes!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The City (An Allegory)

In the distance she glistens like a diamond, bright and gleaming.  With absolutely no imperfection visible, she's pure and wonderful. She's decorated with brilliance and abundance, unlike any other city Earth has ever seen.  From her streets, to her walls, to her gates, she fashioned in splendor like an ancient city yet her appearance is new and untarnished. No city in ancient Egypt, even in its most glorious days, could ever compare to her. Neither could the cities of ancient Athens, or ancient Rome, or the more modern cities like New York, or Paris or Venice. 

The City is dazzling to look upon and vibrantly alive, bustling with activity. Lighted day and night, the city never sleeps.  It seems as though the light from her illuminates the whole world around. Even viewing from this great distance, darkness is shattered because of her brightness.

Here outside the city, in the light gleaming from her, dark, evil things are readily seen; flaunted immorality, murder, slander, idolatry and black magic, are here.  Signs tell me that none of these things can enter the city limits, and I question whether I would be allowed to enter… But, as though it is calling to me, I hear voices saying come!  I must enter this City!  I must behold its beauties for myself!  I must see the King who sit’s upon its throne!  What manner of King must He be to rule in such beauty and in such power! 

The City still seems so distant to me though.  As I travel toward it, I seemingly gain no ground in my journey. Always just out of my reach, I gaze upon it but seem to never approach it. Nothing I can do seems to make a difference.  I cannot get there in my power, though I try intently.

Then suddenly, I see an inhabitant of the city.  His clothing is bright white and unblemished, completely unlike my garments that are dull, and stained and torn.  He’s moving through this Outerworld, among the thorns and the tares, and though they pull at him, his clothes remain unsullied.

He’s calling out, but I cannot yet make out what he’s saying.  As he nears me, I hear his Words.  His must be one of those voices I have been hearing.  His language is strange to, not foul as I am accustomed to hearing, yet I can understand it.  He is searching for someone.  He is calling out to someone with an invitation to a feast with the King inside The City. 

Oh what an honor someone is about to receive, to enter The City, and to feast with its King! What I would give to be invited, but I have nothing to wear and I am dirty, and unknown by all of its inhabitants.

With some apprehension, I decide to move toward him, to see if I might find who he is looking for.  Perhaps I can point him in the correct direction.  He sees me and comes closer.  At this point, I feel sick to my stomach with fear.  Why did I let him see me?  What if he means me harm?  But as he approaches I see compassion in his eyes and my fear subsides. Looking directly into my eyes he says to me, “We have been looking everywhere for you!  You have been invited to the feast inside The City.  Will you come?  Will you leave the dark things behind and come to The City with me?”

It’s impossible that they could be looking for me! How could they even know I exist?  How could they consider letting me in, in this condition?  Just look at me!  The signs have made it clear to me, I will not be allowed in.  Besides, I have tried to approach The City and cannot find my way there.

At once, I am certain that he has mistaken me for someone else, but I can’t bear to say it.  If I tell him that I am not who he thinks I am, he will doubtlessly pass me by!  I cannot seem to speak, so I keep my mouth shut. Perhaps I will at least get a glimpse of the inside of The City before they realize I am not one who is worthy.

About then, the seeker pulls a new garment from his bag and says, “We will get you cleaned up and we’ll get you to The City in time for the feast.”

As he takes me toward The City I notice that I am being washed clean in the light of the majesty shining in the midst of The City! The closer I get to it, the cleaner I become.  My dirty tattered clothes are now falling away… no wait, they have fallen away!  That new robe that was presented to me is now upon me.  I look different.  I feel different. I understand the language much more clearly than before.  The City is now close and its light is blinding!

We are at the gates now, and I look like a dignitary.  Dressed in his robe, I look every bit as marvelous as the seeker who found me.  My clothes are new.  My face is washed.  My hands are clean. I remember that I am unworthy to go in, but the gatekeeper cannot see it!  As we are about to enter the gates, the seeker says, “This is a son of the King!  He was lost in the Outerworld. We have found him and he has left all behind, and has come to the feast of the King!” 

Multitudes of people dressed like me, along with beings of light flying back and forth in The City, burst in to celebration!  The City echoes with shouts, “We have found Him, the one who was lost has been found!” I am being welcomed like a celebrity! Just as I am about to tell them that they are mistaken, that I am not who they believe me to be, The King calls to me… by name.

I turn in shock, horrified at what He will do when He sees me.  How does He know my name?  He extends both arms to welcome me!! “My son!”, He says as he holds me close! Certainly I do not deserve this! I have no merit!  Who am I?  I’m not from The City.  I’ve tried to attain entrance and couldn’t even get close! But somehow the King knows me, He calls me His son, and He welcomes me in! 

Then He points to the seeker, “Your older brother,” The King says, “was willing to leave all this splendor, to go into the Outerworld, to give his own life up, and become like you to find you and bring you here.  You were born in an evil place, but you are home now! The City is your home, come enjoy it!”

Forevermore I will be thankful! I still can’t understand how I, who was lost, became found, or how I who was unworthy became an heir. How can it be that I who was dirty, am now made clean?  How is it that I who was of the darkness, has become a child of light?  Or how can I, who was lost in the Outerworld, now be a resident of The City?  Thanks be to the King who had someone search for me!  Thanks be to the Seeker, who gave His life up to find me! 

Yet, there are others lost in the Outworld, other sons and other daughters.  Someone has to go after them! Will you go with me and the seeker, to search for them and bring them into The City?