The Birthday Apple

A friend of mine sent me a little brown package a few days back with a serious warning on the label: “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL AUGUST 28!”

I really *should* earn brownie points for my self-control, because I really did wait until today (August 28, mind you) to open it.

Inside was a little red apple, made out of clay, with two eyes, a stem, one leaf, a subtle-but-not-so-subtle smile, and a rather noticeably large “bite” taken out of its side.  The “bite” is a white spot, ruffled just like, well, a bite out of an apple would be.  Yet this little apple guy is smiling.

At first, I wasn’t sure about the bite.  It was surprising.  In a way, it marred the whole little apple guy.  But then, in a way, it made it all the more fascinating that he was smiling.

Nearly immediately the extraordinary metaphor hit me in the face like an apple pie.

I am 29 years old today.  I have been through a few things in my life that were “bites” that weren’t my fault, and I’ve been through a hundred million more that were.  Sometimes I feel “scavenged”, sometimes weary, sometimes altogether unlovely.  And yet, in all of this, I can most certainly smile the smile on the apple’s face: the smile of being loved.

I have a God who loved me, loves me, and, so far as I can see–though I still don’t really understand it–will keep on loving me right on through eternity.  I have a God who wants me, cares for me, cradles me in the palm of His hand.  If I were sitting on His desk, like this little apple is sitting on mind, He would smile down on me, too.

The key is not to go through this life undamaged.  You won’t.  That’s like trying to be a piece of fruit on a dining room table.  Sooner and later, and nearly all the time, the sins of others will “bite” at you, and your own sin will get you even worse.  You’ll be down to only the core of who you thought you were, useless, and feeling pretty much abandoned and unloved.

But then this is where God comes in.

He picks us up, rescues us because of His great love, redeems us by the blood of Christ, reforms us by His goodness, and places us in high honor in His Kingdom.  This is the power of God at work in even the most crippled sinners.
I love my smiling-but-not-quite-all-there apple.

I love being a child of God.

That makes any birthday a happy birthday–even if I am, like, almost thirty.  🙂

Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness. (Ephesians 1:7, GW)

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Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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He could have

He could have come as the fastest runner on the planet, but He didn’t.

He could have come as the world champion boxer . . but He didn’t.

He could have won every event in the Olympics . . . . but He didn’t.

He could have set the world record on the high jump, or made the all-star basketball team, or been the best quarterback to ever set foot in the NFL.

He could have taken home ten golf trophies or a hundred MVP’s or even worn a thousand world series rings.

He could have had all the airtime on all the networks He wanted.  He could have produced the greatest movies on the planet.  He could have patented every invention.  He could have won every game show.  He could have had all of Hollywood follow like an eager puppy wherever He went.  He could have lived in wealth that would have made Bill Gates look like a child with a piggy bank.

He could have been invited to every red carpet event.  He could have owned the biggest companies.  He could have been on the front cover of every magazine.  He could have been greeted by applause wherever He went, won awards, signed autographs, bought islands.

But He didn’t.

He could have tried to impress us, but instead He washed our feet.

He could have mocked our sin, but instead He let sinners mock Him.

He could have had all the somebodys as His friends, but most of them hated Him because He loved the nobodies.

He could have shown His strength to the world.  But instead, He let the world spit on Him.

He could have stayed immortal–but He chose to die.

He could have destroyed everyone who led Him to the cross, but instead He gave life to everyone who would follow Him there.

He could have revealed His power and come down from the cross.  But instead He chose to reveal His love and stay there.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:19, NLT)

Decision

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision.  They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

(Mark 15:1, NIV)

The decision was made.  Jesus was to die.

It was the worst, most unfair decision in history.  They had decided that Jesus was trash to be thrown away.

Has anyone ever made a decision about you, in your life?  Has anyone ever tried to shut you out of life?

It happened to the Son of God.

Jesus was condemned–and He didn’t even deserve it.  It wasn’t a matter of whether or not it is politically correct to condemn someone; He was innocent.  He had never done anything wrong.  Can we even imagine it?  We usually get angry when someone condemns us for something we really did do, but Jesus had done nothing wrong and yet, rather than fury, He showed forgiveness.

But the decision was made.  The verdict was death.

Before you take anyone’s word for it that your life is nothing but a sad mistake in history, take a good look at the road of the cross.  It is a long, dusty road over bloodsoaked ground.  It is a road of suffering, judgment, condemnation, and death.  It is the road after a decision was made by those who were seen as the controllers, the puppeteers.

But it was the wrong decision.  Jesus wasn’t guilty.  He wasn’t worthless.  Little did they know it, but His life was worth more than the lives of everyone who has ever walked this earth.  He was infinite in love and power.  He lived His life with integrity and grace.  There was no fault to be found.

We can’t say the same thing for our lives.  We resist condemnation we know we deserve.

Jesus had not even one slip into sin.  He had a perfect record.  Imagine it–He was guilt-free.  We have never a day in our lives been guilt-free.  We are selfish from the moment we are born.  But Jesus–Jesus was different.  He loved.  He cared.  And it was real.

And the decision was made to murder Him.

But what no one on earth knew was that another decision had already been made.  A decision by Jesus Himself.

A decision to pay for our regrets by walking the long road of the cross.

A decision that ended, once and for all, the finality of any decision anyone else could make about your life.  God says so.  One day Jesus, and only Jesus, will be our Judge.  And no decision anyone on earth made about you will matter if Jesus disagrees with them.

Jesus made His decision to free us.  What decision will we make?  Will we follow people who try to make decisions of death for us, or will we follow Jesus who, at the cost of the cross, made His decision to offer eternal life to us?

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:7b-11, ESV)

Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Everything

God in my living, there in my breathing, God in my waking, God in my sleeping. God in my resting, there in my working, God in my thinking, God in my speaking  . . .

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming, God in my watching, God in my waiting God in my laughing, there in my weeping, God in my hurting, God in my healing . . .
–Tim Hughes, “Everything”

As a kid, I got the faintest glimpse of God as “everything”–but my radicalism was soon dampered.  It wasn’t normal, it wasn’t what a kid was supposed to do following a conversion.  It wasn’t safe.  And I lost it.

As a teenager, I saw God as the one who handed out “Get-out-of-Hell-free” cards.  If you got the card, I couldn’t imagine much why you would go back to Him, unless it was because you wanted to make sure He didn’t take it back.  I just wanted to be on the fringes of God’s good graces.  I didn’t figure He would ever really love me or I really love Him, but I could sit In the outer camp and maybe hide in some closet of Heaven.

At a young adult, I saw God as the one who was impossible to please, who picked people to throw in Hell.  The difference I saw between God the Father and Satan was simply one was more powerful.  I figured God could call “good” whatever He wanted–it wasn’t that He was “good” by any “real” standards of goodness.  We were totally helpless and we had to pretend we liked Him so we would be on His good side and He wouldn’t torture us forever.

And at age 25 or so, I began to see God as . . God.

The Bible tore down every poster I had hung about who God was.  Suddenly, God was the walls that had kept me safe all the long years of depression, struggle, and sin.  Suddenly, God was the roof that had kept Satan from totally penetrating my life and snatching me away.  Suddenly, God was standing in the doorway, and I saw myself as I had really been all these years: shoving as hard as I could against Him.  He didn’t push back, but a nail-scarred hand stayed open, ready to reach me.  As hard as I pushed against His arm, as much as I had hurt Him, as much as I had turned away from Him, rebelled against Him, spit on Him, sinned without any regard to His rules, and lived without any regard to what He wanted for my life . . . I saw His hand, in the doorway of my house, not pushing, but suffering as I pushed against it, yet staying with me still.

God in my living, there in my breathing, God in my waking, God in my sleeping. God in my resting, there in my working, God in my thinking, God in my speaking  . . .

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming, God in my watching, God in my waiting God in my laughing, there in my weeping, God in my hurting, God in my healing . . .
–Tim Hughes, “Everything”

I am almost overcome as I think back on it.

God was there, waiting for me–me who deserved it not for a second.

And God began becoming my everything.

I am almost 29 now.  I wish I had every year of my life to give to Him.  I don’t.  But I do have today.

And I do have eternity.

God in my living, there in my breathing, God in my waking, God in my sleeping. God in my resting, there in my working, God in my thinking, God in my speaking  . . .

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming, God in my watching, God in my waiting God in my laughing, there in my weeping, God in my hurting, God in my healing . . .
–Tim Hughes, “Everything”

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

(Luke 7:36-50, NLT)

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5 hundreths of a second

I watched a race between Michael Phelps, Olympic champion, for the 200 meter butterfly.

Early on, Phelps looked good.  At the turn, he was ahead.  At the next turn, he was still ahead.  At the next turn, he was still ahead.  He was ahead all the way to the finish, neck-and-neck.

But he didn’t win.

What happened?  His fans, watching on, probably thought he had it before they looked at the scoreboard.  The reactions shown on TV were surprise.  He had been first, and he had seemed to get to the wall first, even.  What happened?

The wall is trained to pick up touch.  As Phelps coasted in for the wall, in the lane right beside him, Chad Le Clos from the Republic of South Africa gave one last effort.  One last drive.  One last shove.

Phelps’ hand touched, but Clos’ hand pushed.  And by 5 hundredths of a second, Clos won.

5 hundreths of a second.

I know that’s a number, but I can’t get my mind around it.  I can barely keep up with tenths of seconds on a stopwatch.  But hundredths? 

The clear favorite, in his favorite race, lost to a far less known swimmer because of the way he came in to the finish.

It made me think about how I want to finish.

I don’t want to come to the finish my life on coast.  I don’t want the last minute of my life to be spent on a grudge, selfish thinking, entertainment, an unkind word, or a cruel thought.  I don’t want the last minute of my life to be spent on greed, or jealousy, or lack of self control, or complacency.  I want the last minute of my life to be spent for Christ.  In fact, I want the last millisecond of my life to be so.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

Photograph by Marc, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/sumofmarc/

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