Series 8

I’m  a Professional Backslider

“I’m a professional backslider,” Lynn told Nancy. Even as she joked about her spurtish relationship with Jesus, she seemed interested in the Bible she was leafing through.

Nancy offered a reconnect-with-God solution. She handed her a twice folded sheet of paper imprinted with: “YOU ARE INVITED.”  Lynn accepted it without hesitation, indicating she would seriously consider it.

The invitation touted “The Challenge.”  Described as: “Once a week we get together to encourage each other along life’s journey. Please join us in experiencing God! Challenge meetings are designed to teach you the time tested wisdom of the Bible. The purpose is to help participants lead meaningful, productive lives.”

Held at a funky, non-religious gathering place called Harmony Garden, is this a backslider’s answer to prayer?

The Bible says: “The person who backslides in his heart will be fully repaid for his ways.”

Happens ever time from what I’ve seen. Have you ever seen a person close to God improve their life after backsliding?

The Bible graphically says: “Better not to have started out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back, repudiating the experience and the holy command.

They prove the point of the proverbs, ‘A dog goes back to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A scrubbed-up pig heads for the mud.’”

Lynn never made it to the meeting. Someone commented: “I guess she backslid so far she couldn’t make it.”

Can a person actually backslide past Jesus’ reach? Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in . . .”

Here’s the picture. Jesus is gently tapping on the door of Lynn’s heart. He won’t force His way in. Yet he patiently waits, anxious to renew the relationship they once had.


Is Hell Hope?

“I can only hope there are different levels of hell,” Steve said. “I’ve been messing up big time.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. He quoted a destruction-of-evil Bible verse from the Proverbs. Steve listens to the Proverbs on tape every morning; he was sure he was heading to hell.

You know what? Steve has messed up a lot in his life, probably more than most people. But he has a good heart. Just twenty minutes before he condemned himself to hell, he had given me ten bucks so I could pass it on to someone in need.  He does this regularly. Steve attends our weekly get together to talk about God—always faithful. He brings his Bible, knows it fairly well and offers solid spiritual comments.

Steve’s a good guy.

“Steve, listen to me,” I said. “The Proverbs aren’t the Gospel.” Yes, they offer enlightening biblical wisdom. Yet, the Proverbs are not Steve’s ultimate stopper for his feared-for destination.

Skewed thinking led Steve to a mathematical formula. Steve’s mess ups minus Steve’s good-guy stuff equal hell’s least painful level.

Not, the Gospel; not the Good News of Jesus.

Jesus revealed the basic Gospel when he said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

We talked about it. Conclusion-- Steve is already a Jesus believing, sin repented, heaven bound soul.  Yes, he’s got to work on some things in his life.

So do I. Isn’t that the walking with Jesus way? 

After Jesus explained the basic Gospel, He continued: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Now Steve, that’s real hope.


The Love Letter

“I really need you to do me a favor,” John said. “What do you want?” I responded to my good friend.

John hesitated for a moment; I prodded. His favor?  Drive him to deliver a five-page hand written love letter. He told me his love-grown-cold woe between himself and his girlfriend Ashley. He said, “If it’s over I’m going out with a bang.” I agreed; let’s do it.

When I arrived to pick him up, John said, “I feel like a moron.” Uncharacteristically nervous and impulsive, he was apologizing, asking what to do, and thanking me in rapid succession. 

What won’t a person go through to restore a love relationship?

Jesus, when He must have felt the same tug, said: “But you walked away from your first love—why? What’s going on with you, anyway?”

With similar thoughts scattering through his head, John bought three roses, then wrapped the love letter onto the stem with green ribbon. After a courage-gathering drive past Ashley’s house, John went up to the door. He shoved the delivery into the hands of an unsuspecting guest blurting, “Give this to Ashley.” John ran and jumped into the van, “Peel out, let’s go!” I laughed, but I didn’t peel out.

John pushed through his emotional obstacles to restore love.

Won’t Jesus do anything to restore a love relationship with one of us? His very nature is revealed in the verse: “God is love.”

As we drove, John started regaining his composure, until I asked, “What if she doesn’t answer.” Practically popping his seat belt loose, he replied, “She better!”

That’s one question we never have to wonder. “What if Jesus doesn’t answer?”

So stop. Don’t let your love with Jesus grow cold. Pray. Your love letter will be instantly delivered to the One who loves you.


Who Cares if He Drowns?

“Hey Rick, this is Peter,” the answering machine message said. “I just thought you would like to know that one of your sheep is drowning across the street.”

His message needed no further explanation. Your sheep—Anthony, a friend who I have attempted to guide away from alcohol’s destructive grip. Across the street—a bar. Drowning—intoxicated. Anthony and I had spoke less than four hours before, arranging a ride for him to church the next day.

I loathe alcohol.

Is all drinking of alcohol wrong—a sin? Drinking is present occasionally in the Bible in the it’s-O.K. category. More pronounced though, are the many stern biblical warnings and commands in the be-not-drunk category.

For me, I don’t drink.

I don’t drink because I constantly see it’s destruction in individuals, families, and our communities. I refuse to partner with that destruction.

Sure, I drove by that billboard. Wow, those women with the beer in their hands, aren’t they pretty? And those big smiles, they must be very happy. I saw that sign on the beer truck.  “CRISP, CLEAN, REFRESHING.”

Anthony didn’t attend church. But his answering machine message said: “I’m sorry I didn’t make it to church; I was sick. Call me.” Hmm, the billboard and the sign-on-the-truck promises didn’t work—no refreshing smile for Anthony.

Also, I don’t drink because its seduction is not beyond grabbing me.

And does anyone want their life to align with this Bible verse? “Drunkenness, carousing, and the like; I warn you, just as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Listen, I’m not telling you not to drink. But could you help me gather a few sheep who might be drowning? And make sure you inherit the kingdom of God.



The Teeter Doesn’t  Totter

“They broke it,” my wife said. “Are you serious?” I said, looking at the broken teeter-totter plank. She’s great with unruly children. But even she seemed slightly frazzled by the six children she had rounded up for a church party.

Despite all the disciplining challenges, we understood clearly why we had brought the children. Our desire is that they will become our spiritual children by influencing them to become followers of Jesus. And then someday, the words of the Apostle John could become ours:  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

A featured event of the evening was the bashing of a piñata. We were watching closely.

When the busting blow burst the piñata, it became a grab-shove moment. Even the church kids turned unruly. Our most challenging, Daniel, was in the middle of the fray. He’s a 190 pound twelve-year old hulk.

He quickly scooped up half a bag of candy. Then he guarded another sizable pile with his body like a hockey goalie sprawling on an inches-from-the-net puck.

To a girl, who looked tiny compared to Daniel, he said, “Here, this is for you.” A couple of church kids lunged once more as he fended them off. He then helped fill her still empty bag with candy from the guarded pile.

I’ll never know what teeter-tottered Daniel’s behavior from being the teeter-totter destroyer to being the role model for piñata etiquette.

Believe me, after that he didn’t suddenly turn saintly. But for us, it was a no-greater-joy moment.

Where will these children’s lives teeter-totter to? That’s unanswerable. But all of us are on one side or the other as we influence children in the teeter-totter between good and evil. Which side are you on?