Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Note to Self: God Can Help

I’m finding myself a bit irritated by all the self-service “conveniences” in commerce these days. In the travel industry, it seems no one wants to help us anymore. At airline and rental car counters, we’re directed to self-service kiosks. At grocery stores and the like, “self checkout” is encouraged. Oh, the employees stand there and assure us they’re available to help “if you need it,” but the unspoken message is, “You’re a big dummy if you do.”

Does all this really make our lives easier? By the time you figure out how to use the technology, you could have already moved on had a trained employee ushered you through in the traditional manner – and you might have engaged in some human-to-human interaction, so increasingly rare in today’s digital world. Comedian Larry the Cable Guy says when his family goes through the self checkout at Wal-Mart, they wind up standing there for 20 minutes, randomly pushing buttons and looking like retards. I can identify.

I wonder if there’s something more than the pursuit of convenience behind this trend. Self-reliance and individualism are classic manifestations of man’s sinful nature. I can do it myself. I don’t need anyone’s help. Buying fishing lures at Wal-Mart through a machine is certainly not the cause of society’s ills. But when the “I don’t need help” mentality extends to God, that’s when trouble arises. Always has, always will.

God of Wonders

I’m amazed by the variety and complexity of our earth. A lot of times when I’m outdoors, it occurs to me how very big and powerful God must be. When I’m overwhelmed by just one little corner of the world – northern New Mexico, for example, which I visited last week and is pictured here – and I remember that God has dominion over it all, sometimes the only reaction I can come up with is … wow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Praying President

Sixty-five years ago, on June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a national radio address during which he prayed for Allied troops as they invaded German-occupied France.

I wonder what the reaction would be today if President Obama prayed for Allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? It would likely be political suicide if he did. But back then, public prayer by a national leader was not only acceptable, it was desirable. “Many people,” Roosevelt noted, “have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer.”

If you are interested in reading FDR’s prayer, here is a link to it:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sobering Reality

The loss of Air France Flight 447 is pretty disturbing. I don’t have a phobia about air travel, but the thought of a jetliner breaking apart thousands of feet over the ocean is simply terrifying. I can’t help wondering what the final moments were like for the 228 passengers and crew who lost their lives early Monday morning.

Whoever they were – whether they were rich or poor, whether they were famous or anonymous, whether they sat in first-class or coach – did not matter when the moment of death came upon them so quickly. All that mattered was this: Were they prepared for the state of existence that comes after death? If they were not, then the terror they felt in those final moments was miniscule compared to the horror they are now experiencing.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). I think a lot of people tend to categorize Christians. In one group are the garden-variety faithful who go to church most Sundays and generally live “good” upstanding lives. Then there are the “born-again Christians,” the ones who tend to be more vocal and passionate about their faith – the ones who might even be described as “holy rollers.”

I’m generalizing, but I do cringe when I hear the term “born-again Christian,” because here’s the thing: A true Christian, by the very definition, is born again. Being born again means coming to a point of repentance from sin, placing one’s faith in Christ alone (as opposed to any amount of “good works”), and committing oneself to following Him as a way of life. The believer is born again into a whole new life. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

That’s the good news. The bad news, for those who do not accept the new life Christ offers, is that eternal separation from God in hell awaits on the other side of this temporary life on earth. People don’t like to think about hell. Even a lot of churches don’t like to discuss it. But Jesus himself talked a lot about hell – a heck of a lot, if you will – more than 70 references in the four gospels.

One of the most vivid descriptions comes in the 16th chapter of Luke, where Jesus spoke of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus: “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” (Luke 16:22-26)

The reality of hell is surely the hardest truth to accept from God’s word. I wish it were not true. But I believe it is, and I want people who are headed there to realize there is another way, that there is the promise of heaven for those who put their faith in Christ.

I recently read a powerful book called 23 Minutes in Hell by a man named Bill Wiese. He experienced a life-altering vision of hell and is convinced he was physically transported to this awful place. Wiese repeatedly encourages his readers to consider what the Bible has to say on the subject, even if they don’t believe his own story. For more on Bill Wiese’s ministry and experiences, visit or

If there’s even the slightest possibility of a never-ending hell and a never-ending heaven on the other side of this life, it makes sense to investigate how to avoid one and reach the other. Because, as countless people have learned through the ages, once death comes, it’s too late for investigation at that point.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

He Lives in Me

When Tiger Woods became a professional golfer in 1996, his first advertising campaign with Nike featured kids of various ages and backgrounds declaring, “I am Tiger Woods.” The implication: “Golf has a new hero and I want to be just like him.”

Tiger certainly lived up to the hype – he is, unquestionably, the greatest player in golf today. But I never aspired to be him because ... well ... my golf game stinks.

For years, my shortcomings ate at me. I occasionally tasted success and I knew how much fun the game could be when played well. But oh how humiliating it can make a man feel, particularly in the company of better players. I desperately wanted to be like those guys. I would go through periods of intense instruction and practice, but rarely did I see significant improvement.

I don't play much golf these days. I still love the game, but I’ve resigned myself to being an average player at best. I am good at some things, however. We all are, because God has given each of us certain abilities. Whatever that something is for you, when you do it well and do it for God’s glory, then you are fulfilling His purposes for you. True identity is found in a relationship with God, not in the attempt to be Tiger Woods or anyone else.

One of my favorite Bible verses, Galatians 2:20, sums it up: “I have been crucified in Christ and I longer live, but He lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”