Christianity is far more than forgiveness for past failures (sins) and the confident hope of a pleasant future in heaven, it is the power of Christ and the presence of Christ with us and in us right now, in the present moment, to mesh into every part and parcel of life.
Yes, there literally is “hell to pay” – the question is, “Who is picking up your tab?”
And so Jesus is able, now and forever, to save from the punishment of sin all who come to God through Him because He lives forever to pray for them. Hebrews 7:25 (NLV)
All in all, after everything has been examined and argued, dissected and debated – whether in matters of war and peace, religion and politics, gender and race, crime and justice, health and education, economy and environment, marriage and family, pride and prejudice, gossip and greed, arrogance and ignorance – it all boils down to this one thing: we have a sin problem with a JESUS solution. So until we get this right, and until He returns to make everything right again, we will continue to live in this world of hurt.
I have found that life outside is so much better when the sun is shining. Even a frigid, windy, winter day is quite pleasant when the added warmth and brightness of the sun shining down on me.
I have also noticed that life inside is much better when the Son is shining. My outlook and attitude toward the challenges, frustrations, and irritations of life are more bearable when I begin the day in the clarity of His Word and invite Him lead the way.
I don’t believe it is any coincidence how the words – sun and Son are pronounced the same and how similar their affects are upon life – life outside and life inside. In life outside, the closer the relationship in proximity to the sun (nearer to the equator), the more abundant is the life to be found; in life inside, the closer the relationship in proximity to the Son (nearer to the Savior JESUS) the more abundant is the life to be found.
This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life. 1 John 5:12
In 1998 Tom Brokaw released a book titled The Greatest Generation, that tells us about the generation of Americans who grew up during the Great Depression, and then fought in and/or contributed from the home front, in World War II. Though I haven’t yet read this book, I agree with Mr. Brokaw that this was (and is) a great generation which accomplished much. What stands out most to me is at the core of who these men and women were (and still are for those living today) was a true willingness to make sacrifices and go without, to share and direct resources where they were most needed, and to voluntarily serve one’s country and community for the greater good of all. Sacrifice, sharing, and service – three characteristics best expressed in the life of Jesus Christ.
But, by enduring so much through an era of depression and then war, these men and women from The Greatest Generation didn’t do the rest of us any favors in one aspect – for they vowed that their children and grandchildren “will have it better than I did” – and this declaration, I believe, is where many of our problems today stem from. Though it sounds wonderful in theory, the results have been disastrous, because “better” has erroneously equated to mean “easier,” and as we now see, “easier” doesn’t turn out “better”. For in wanting their children and grandchildren “to have it better than I did,” each succeeding generation has had more and more given to it, with less and less expected from it. Thus, every subsequent generation has received a lesser degree of parenting as well.
Here are four different versions of two verses from The Bible on the topic of parenting:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (King James Version)
Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life. Proverbs 22:6 (Good News Translation)
Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost. Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6 (New Living Translation)
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24 (King James Version)
Those who don’t correct their children hate them. But those who love them are careful to correct them. Proverbs 13:24 (New International Reader’s Version)
If you love your children, you will correct them; if you don’t love them, you won’t correct them. Proverbs 13:24 (Common English Version)
A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. Proverbs 13:24 (The Message)
Effective parenting requires training, teaching, pointing, and directing; it also includes lots of correction through loving discipline. Unfortunately, when parents decide that their children and grandchildren “will have it better than I did” it often ends up like this:
Not saying “No”, “Don’t”, “Stop It”, “Knock It Off”, “Quit That”, “Cut It Out”, “Wait”, etc…
Giving in to all wants (which soon turn into demands);
Rewarding all “participants” as well as not keeping score to determine the winners and losers in anything;
Excusing inappropriate behavior;
Ignoring a lack of manners;
Foregoing common social courtesies.
As Proverbs 30:15 (The Message) states:
A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” Three things are never satisfied, no, there are four that never say, “That’s enough, thank you!”— hell, a barren womb, a parched land, a forest fire.
Since WWII, we have produced multiple generations of children who cry out “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” Thus we have millions of spoiled brats and crybabies in our society who have entered into adulthood and run into roadblocks, because they have never had to wait for or work toward anything in their lives, nor have they developed the ability to think and speak intelligently for themselves. Now, as adults, they are unable to discuss and debate important life issues, so instead they call foul, cry victim, and play the “hate” card. They accuse, attack, and attempt to silence those who disagree with them, and continually jump from bandwagon to bandwagon in their support of popular causes endorsed by celebrities and perceived “social victims.”
Compounding this has been the ever increasing divorce rate over past decades, that is now around fifty percent. Think about it – at least half of all men, women, and children in the United States are products of at least one broken family unit, which carries varying levels of emotional and relational baggage. Parenting is difficult enough in homes which have never experienced a divorce, but after divorce occurs everything becomes more complicated for an infinite number of reasons. This isn’t to place blame, just to state the facts of a situation that has greatly contributed to our current state of affairs, as divorce is usually accompanied by things like guilt, fear, confusion, misunderstanding, struggle, bitterness, pain, etc…, and often leads parents to give more and expect less from their children.
Of course, at the root of this is our broken human nature. The more we have handed to us, the less we appreciate it, the less we care about it, and less gratitude we show for it. Getting something for nothing breeds contempt. It produces disrespect for ourselves, as well as for those who give us what we know we don’t deserve and haven’t earned. Deep inside we realize there is something wrong in not having any of our own “skin in the game”, but we are too under-developed and undisciplined to do anything about it.
Having it “better” (easier) has cut short the critical character-building required to produce offspring who are as honest, hardworking, committed, disciplined, and responsible as those from The Greatest Generation were (and are). By having it “better” (easier), most of us have no clear concept of what sacrifice, sharing, and service even mean.
Today, so much of American culture is centered around “self” – self-expression, self-indulgence, self-promotion, self-satisfaction – it’s all Me, Myself, and I (along with my Homies, of course). But what made The Greatest Generation so great was that for a brief period in our history, the notion of “self” was removed, because the survival of our nation demanded it to be that way. Life became an all-encompassing matter of country and community with everyone making sacrifices, sharing resources, and serving in whatever way they could.
How do we get that back? Will it require another depression or recession? Will it take another world war to unite us again? I hope not, but with so much self-interest, self-love, and attention seeking taking place, it will take something significant to wake us up, to shake us up. Perhaps this is why GOD allows us to wallow around in our sin sometimes; why we endure suffering, and experience pain. We need to get to a place where we can actually understand what true mercy, grace, and love really are. Even though The Greatest Generation may never be duplicated, we can certainly turn out Better Generations in our future if we start teaching, training, correcting, and disciplining our children and grandchildren in ways that create greatness, since we are living proof of what doesn’t, since “easier” hasn’t turned out “better”.
He is the exact image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes. He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. Colossians 1:15-17
The concept of “god” is suitable for most, as many people say they believe in GOD or a “god” of some sort. The problem though, is this matter JESUS. JESUS presents an enormous dilemma for many, because belief in GOD requires belief in JESUS. The verses above state that JESUS is the exact image of the invisible GOD. He is GOD in flesh and bone – the perfect revelation of true deity. JESUS confirmed this when He said:
“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30
It is impossible to believe in and know GOD apart from JESUS. Whatever it is people stir up in their minds and make with their hands is not GOD. JESUS is GOD – in the fullest measure and most accurate image. Other so-called “gods” have all emerged through means of peoples’ imaginations and their manufacturing of idols. They are the result of someone’s personal effort and attempt to attain favor and receive blessings. These “gods” are now employed in a variety of religions and rituals around the world used to promote peace, health, happiness, and all sorts of self-improvements. But there is a problem with these made up, manufactured “gods”– they can’t do anything.
How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
an idol that cannot help him one bit? Isaiah 44:9-10
You would think that people would consider some things about their “gods” – such as who invented them and where they were made?
The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,
“Why, it’s just a block of wood!
I burned half of it for heat
and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.
How can the rest of it be a god?
Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?”
20 The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.
He trusts something that can’t help him at all.
Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,
“Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?” Isaiah 44:19-20
What people need is a GOD who is something other than we are – a GOD who is bigger and better than us. We need a GOD who knows us and still loves us anyway. We need a GOD who is for us – for us to have His best in this life right now, and also forever in the life to come. We need JESUS. JESUS came for us. JESUS came to be with us. JESUS came to give us what we need, not necessarily what we want. JESUS came to save us from all the pain and trouble we inflict upon ourselves and others because of something called sin.
If you believe that Jesus is the Christ—that He is God’s Son and your Savior— then you are a child of God. And all who love the Father love His children too. 1 John 5:1
I’m at that age where I get to enjoy the blessings of grandchildren. This has helped me notice again how life is full of wonders and wows. Everything is new, special, and fun for children. This past week, my 6 month old grandson, Charlie, found out about the wonders of Cheerios. He looked them over, picked them up with his tiny fingers, and attempted to get them into his mouth to experience their texture and taste. WOW! A couple months ago, I assisted my 5 year old grandson, Brady, in the wonder of riding a bicycle without training wheels. The look on his face when he knew he had mastered this was priceless. WOW!
Here are a few more wonders and wows of childhood you may remember: building a sand castle, catching a firefly, sucking an ice cube, hearing a cricket, picking a bouquet of dandelions, making a snow angel, losing a tooth, roasting a marshmallow, chasing a butterfly.
While wonders and wows seem especially true for little ones, they are present throughout our lives. There is still much to wow us and make us wonder, even as we grow up and move through adolescence and adulthood. Do you ever wonder now? Do you ever wonder enough to be wowed?
Take a good look at God’s wonders—they’ll take your breath away. Psalm 66:5
Do you ever wonder about GOD and His creation? Things like a volcano, a coral reef, a galaxy? Do you ever wonder about the uniqueness’s of a walking stick, a sea horse, a humming bird, a giraffe, a blue whale? How about a rainbow, a snowflake, a shooting star, the morning dew, the ocean tides? Have you ever wondered about a spider’s web, a chicken’s egg, a bee hive? WOW!
Do you ever wonder how GOD gave us human beings the capacity, the intellect, and the ambition to imagine, invent, engineer, build, and manufacture? Things like the Panama Canal, the Great Pyramids, the Mackinaw Bridge, the Channel Tunnel, and Hoover Dam? Do you ever wonder how the power of hundreds of horses is harnessed into automobiles that everyday take us everywhere we want to go? How huge, heavy airplanes are able to fly through the air at unimaginable speeds and altitudes? How ships the size of a Midwestern town can float across the ocean? How we can communicate with people all over the world on devices that have no wires attached to them? WOW!
Wonders and Wows are all around, but most of us just don’t take the time to notice them. We’re too busy, too much in a hurry, too distracted, too dull. Instead of wonders and wows, our lives consist more of worries and woes. We can choose otherwise, though. And here is perhaps the greatest wonder ever:
For Christ died for sins once and for all, a good man on behalf of sinners, in order to lead you to God. 1 Peter 3:18a