Freedom in the Foundation

Recently I challenged students with this scenario:

You are one of the following four people that are the last stranded on a sinking ship.  Unfortunately, there is only one small lifeboat left that holds three people. The one person who doesn’t board the last boat will certainly die.   Decide which three people should board the life boat and live while the other person meets an untimely end.

–          Outgoing student with good grades

–          Woman who thinks she is pregnant

–          Drug dealer that steals to support his habit

–          Shy person you know nothing about

For starters, if you put a bunch of students in paper boats and tell them to decide which one has to get out, it makes for an interesting night.  What is so interesting is to see them wrestle with the dilemma of self and others.  Have you decided yet?  Student, mom, dealer or the quiet one…which one should be sacrificed for others?  Now ask yourself if you were one of the four, would you be willing to get out of the boat and perish for the pregnant woman?  Would you struggle to die for the sake of the drug dealer?

Though an incredibly interesting case study, in the end I am not hoping to teach a lesson in ethical choices or a lesson in selfless living. I want everyone to understand a foundational truth that is explained in Romans 5 

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT)

You see it doesn’t matter who’s in the boat if Jesus is the fourth man; he always chooses to sacrifice himself to save lives.  You and two of your closest friends…Jesus steps out of the boat.  Three of the worst people you can imagine…Jesus willingly rides the ship down while they float with an opportunity for real life.  We must understand this “great love for us” and remind ourselves regularly that “while we were still sinners” Christ died for us.  The foundational truth is that no one has ever earned a spot on the boat; it is simply the gift of a loving God. 

When we miss this truth, we will find ourselves living frustrated on a fragile foundation of self rather than living in the freedom of a life founded on God’s great love for us. 

A Square One Parable from Disney World

After a long time of saving, my wife and I were finally able to have the opportunity to take our 3 boys to Disney World last month. It was an amazing time for making memories for our family.

One memory, and ultimately a constant reminder, comes from my boy Isaac (our 3 year old). My 39″ tall 3 year old rode on EVERY ride he was able to. Let me explain why this is a big deal. I have vivid memories of my childhood going to amusement parks with my dad, and him begging me to ride the rides. I would cry (and he would laugh…in a loving way).  I was probably 13 years old. (Please, no comments).

Back to Isaac. He is THREE! And he rode EVERYTHING he was allowed to.

Ride after ride, he would stay close to me in line. He would stay quiet. Then, right as we were to get on the ride, he would lean up toward me and say “Dad, I have to go potty.”  I’m no fool. I would tell him we would go immediately after the ride. You see, I knew he was making an excuse. He was afraid. He wouldn’t come out and say that, but he was uncertain. He didn’t know what was about to happen. For all he knew, literal pirates with real swords, shooting real cannons would be commandeering our little ship. By all accounts, he knew he was about to be in a hopeless situation.

But he went anyway.

He sat by me on every ride. He didn’t say a word. He’d put one hand in his mouth (nervous habit) and put his other hand on my leg.  When moments were tense, he squeezed. He never changing his gaze. He never showed the fear on his face that was expressed in his hands.

Amazingly after every ride, Isaac would look at me and smile. “Dad, that was my NEW FAVORITE ride!” I think he did it more in relief that he was still alive after it was over. On the last day there, I was so impressed with his courage that I finally asked Isaac why he still insisted on going on the rides even if he was so afraid. Why would he not admit his fear and stay back?

He looked up, full of hope and knocked me back with these words: “Cause you’re with me dad.” When things were uncertain and hopeless, he trusted me.

I was just reminded what childlike faith looks like.

God does some of His best work in hopeless situations. While life is uncertain, Jesus is not. While our power is limited, God is limitless. While we can be shaken, He is the rock. 

When Jesus is the Cornerstone, our response is worship.

For me, worship is not a job or a hobby, it’s not what I do for fun when I could be sleeping in on a Sunday morning. I don’t sing because I like to, I sing because I am compelled to. I am compelled because I am filled with possibility and hope and blessed assurance that this life is not all there is.  And everything I have in this life is His. I have passion for what Christ has done on the cross, and for how he saved me, profoundly and personally.  It isn’t something I do on my off-time; I live to worship – in my mornings, throughout my days, as I go to bed.

Maybe there are moments where I have to tighten the grip of my hands to admit my fear, but my gaze remains constant. My resolve is true. My eyes are constantly fixed on Jesus and I will worship. What about you?

Be the Temple, Build the Temple

With the opportunity to preach the book of Haggai, I was surprised by what a treasure this small book is. Most surprising to me was the modern day application of a book written specifically to a certain people at a certain time – rebuild the temple.


Western Wailing Wall © Paulprescott | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

There is no temple in Jerusalem today; the second temple was destroyed within four decades of Christ’s resurrection. And I don’t think the call from the book of Haggai is for us to travel to Jerusalem and start setting stone. I think that a use of temple passages to promote the construction of new church buildings is likewise misguided.

Instead, a focus on the purposes of the temple in the lives of the Jewish people brings to light the construction project for which we are called.

  • The temple was the place of presence for God on earth – Immanuel, God with Us
  • The temple was the place of sacrifice and reconciliation between sinful man and holy God.
  • The temple was a light to all the nations, prompting the world to ask, “Who is this God that merits such a home?” and “Who are these people who have such a God?”

Paul clearly points to the modern day temple that is being built.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

We, those who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, are the temple. We are the place of habitation of God on earth. We are the Body of Christ, having been joined to the ultimate sacrifice of reconciliation to the Father. We are a beacon of light to a lost and dying world.

Jesus left instructions for his disciples before he ascended to heaven. He left instructions for this temple of believers to be build:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

Will you help lay a stone on this temple? Or will you, like the people of Haggai’s day, walk about saying, “The time has not come,” while seeking a comfortable life for yourself.

The mere prospect of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ most likely stokes fear and thoughts of inadequacy. Like the people of Haggai’s day who were not capable of building a truly glorious temple, God says, “I am with you. I will shake the nations.” Remember, this is God’s work – we are just joining Him in the effort.

Will you build the temple this week? One conversation with one person may change a life for eternity. Will you boldly do God’s work in the midst of skeptics, doubters, and fear-mongers? Will you build the temple?