Monday, July 27, 2009

I Owe How Much??!!

John Muszynski got the surprise of his life recently when he used his Visa debit card to purchase a pack of cigarettes. A few hours after the purchase, he was online and decided to check his account. He discovered that he had been charged $23,148,855,308,184,500 for his smokes. If your math is a bit rusty, that is over 23 quadrillion dollars. Talk about inflation! I’ve heard that smoking is an expensive habit, but that is ridiculous! Obviously, someone had made a mistake somewhere. While being interviewed by a TV station, Muszynski quipped, “I thought my card had been compromised. I thought someone had bought Europe with my credit card.” Thankfully, the billing error was corrected the very next day (Fox News, 7-15-09).

Disciples of Jesus Christ are also familiar with unpayable debts. Prior to being forgiven, our personal sin debt was huge. Our situation was hopeless. Our currency was worthless. In fact, our feeble efforts at repayment were actually useless because we were spiritually dead – dead in our sin. One unalterable rule of spiritual economics is that dead people are incapable of repaying debt. Our only hope, then, was for someone else to step in on our behalf and pay the debt for us. Thankfully, that is exactly what Jesus Christ did for each one of us.

Notice how Paul describes the transaction in his letter to the Colossians: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

The words of the song are true: “He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song – “Amazing Grace.” Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.” Thank you, Jesus!!!

God loves you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Swearing Good For You?

I suppose, given our human tendency to legitimize our behavior (both good or bad), I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I shook my head in sadness when I read the following LiveScience headline on the Fox News website this past week: “Swearing Makes You Feel Less Pain” (; July 13, 2009). The article reports on the efforts of researchers to see if there was any link between swearing and an individual’s tolerance of pain. “The researchers enlisted 64 undergraduate volunteers and had them submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice. The experiment was then repeated with the volunteer repeating a more common word that they would use to describe a table. Contrary to what the researcher expected, the volunteers kept their hands submerged longer while repeating the swear word.” So there you have it. Finally – proof that swearing is good for you! Didn’t you just know that if we waited long enough, science would catch up with what most of the world already believed and practiced?

Please believe me when I say that I am not campaigning to be chief of the language police. I also know that our language can be destructive even when we aren’t “cussing.” But make no mistake – God cares about the words we use. Twice in Ephesians, Paul references language that would be unfitting for a disciple of Christ. First: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Also notice: “…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4).

Regardless of the results of human research, it seems clear that whatever qualifies as “unwholesome words” and “filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting” ought not to be part of our vocabulary. Could God be telling me that I need to clean up my language?

God loves you!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Funeral Arrangements

As I write these words, a public memorial will soon begin in Los Angeles for Michael Jackson. The media circus surrounding the event has been over-the-top, even by Hollywood standards. News helicopters fill the skies, tracking every movement of the funeral entourage. Earlier this morning, an entire freeway had to be shut down during the morning rush hour for the family motorcade. The memorial is being held at a 20,000 seat basketball arena to accommodate as many as possible. Many of the biggest names in the entertainment business will be in attendance to pay their respects. If you wanted to attend the memorial (and you weren’t family or an invited guest), you had to register for free tickets and 1.6 million people did so. Out of that number, 8750 were chosen to receive 2 tickets each. Numerous theaters across the country are planning to broadcast the memorial live without charge.

I can’t help but contrast this scene with the events surrounding the funeral arrangements for another public figure. “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:38-42).

Two disciples, begging the powers that be just for the opportunity to give the Son of God a proper burial. It just doesn’t seem right, does it? But, then again, I guess this funeral would only be necessary for three days, wouldn’t it?

God loves you!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Declaration Of Dependence

“The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress of July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America – Independence Day – is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress” (“United States Declaration of Independence”,

As citizens of the United States, we have a rich history of independence. From the birth of our union, we have been blessed with many independent thinkers and doers who have made important contributions toward the building of one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth. Independent men and women with a “never-say-die” attitude and a willingness to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps were vital in the settlement and growth of our country. But independence can be overdone. This is especially true in our relationship to God. When our spirit of independence leads us to believe that we can do without Divine assistance in our lives, then we have serious problems.

Let’s make today and every other day of our lives a celebration of our need for Divine help. With the apostle Paul, we can affirm that it is only in God that “…we live and move and exist…” (Acts 17:28). With the Psalmist, we can assert that, in comparison to God, our days are “…as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath” (Ps. 39:5). With Isaiah, we can admit that those who contend with God “…will be as nothing and will perish” (Isa. 41:11). Beginning today, let’s issue our own Declaration of Dependence upon God!

God loves you!

Are We Forgetting How To Blush?

The Old Testament book of Jeremiah is a record of God’s warning to a wayward and sinful nation. The people of God had given themselves over to all kinds of degrading and immoral practices. The extent of their depravity is revealed in Jeremiah 6:15: “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush…” Not only were God’s people engaged in all sorts of sinful practices, but they also felt no shame in doing so. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul chastises the Corinthian church for their arrogant and boastful attitude toward a grievous sin in their midst (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6). According to Paul, the godly response to such sin should have been mourning.

These texts from the past sound like a commentary on our modern culture. It certainly appears that, as a nation, we also have forgotten how to blush. While sin has always plagued our society, it is only relatively recently that we have begun to remove the shame attached to it. Immorality and perversion that was once practiced only in darkened rooms behind closed doors and curtains is now presented publically on our movie screens and television sets. Vulgarity that was once common only among certain groups and in certain places is now broadcast for all to hear. And perhaps saddest of all is the fact that fewer and fewer cheeks are reddened and eyebrows are raised when it does take place.

Blushing over sin is never outdated or old-fashioned. God’s judgment came upon an entire nation during the time of Jeremiah because of their sin and their brazen attitude toward it. What makes us think we can escape the same fate when we follow the same path? May God help us once again to feel the shame associated with sin; a shame that will lead us to repent and commit ourselves to do what we can to reverse the slide into moral degradation that plagues our nation.

God loves you!