I’d Rather be “Left Behind” than “Taken”

 

Image result for noah's ark and the flood

Who was taken and who was left behind, choosing between Noah and his family, and everyone else outside the boat? Noah and his family were left behind and everyone else was taken.

Try this one: Between Abraham and his cousin Lot, and the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife? Yes, Abraham was left behind but the two cities along with Lot’s wife was taken.

I’d rather be left behind, that is, not judged for my sins, than to be taken into judgment. Let’s take a look at the two main texts that teach this. First, Matthew 24:36-44:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

 

From this text alone, the one thing that helps us understand that “taken” means judgment and “left” means not judged, is the example that Jesus provides. You have to ask yourself, does the phrase “the flood came and swept them all away” refer to being left behind, or does it refer to be taken away? Was Noah taken or was he left? Was he judged or was he spared, left out of judgment? The very flow of the imagery would lead us to connect “the flood came and swept them all away” with “taken” – not “left.”

But Luke gives us more in 17:26-37.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.
They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot–they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all– so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.
Remember Lot’s wife.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”
And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

In this passage we have two additional items to help us determine that you want to be left out of the judgment and not taken into it.

 

First, we have the event of Lot and the city of Sodom. Did Lot live to see another day because he was “left” or “taken”? He was left.

 

Second, we have the disciples question and the Lord’s reply. Jesus paints the picture that when he returns, one person is taken while one person is left. Fair enough, but not helpful. But then the question comes: “Where, Lord?” Now that’s helpful. Are the disciples asking where the one at the mill is left or the one at mill was taken? It’s silly to think that they’re asking where the one at the mill is left – SHE’S STILL AT THE MILL!!! They’re asking where the one at the mill was taken to. Again, are the disciples asking where the one in bed is taken, or are they asking where the one in bed is left? That’s just nuts to ask where the one in bed is left – obviously – STILL IN BED!! They’re asking where the one that was in bed taken to. Jesus’ answer is judgment. That is, the one that was taken, was taken into judgment. The one that was left, was spared.

 

What happened to Noah and Lot both fit the pattern that they were left and the ones outside the boat and in the city of Sodom were taken away, swept away into judgment. And the disciples question clearly seems to be aimed at where the taken are taken – into judgment. Therefore, when Jesus returns, I want to be left behind, left out of his judgment. I don’t want to be taken into judgment. And furthermore, this leads me to lose my life for Christ, that is, keep a watch on my life so that when Christ returns, I won’t be taken into judgment for valuing my life above his, but rather, will be left out of his judgment for prizing Christ above all things – including my own life.

 

Dear mom, when it feels “too hard”, the grace of Christ is greater still . . .

Abraham and Sarah are too old, but Christ is greater still

Noah is too weird to build a boat in a desert, but Christ is greater still

Joseph’s pit is too deep, but Christ is greater still

Moses’ mouth is too ineloquent, but Christ is greater still

The Red Sea is too deep, but Christ is greater still

Pharaoh’s Army is too close, but Christ is greater still

The desert is too deserted of water and food, but Christ is greater still

The Giant’s are too big, but Christ is greater still

The Armies are too powerful, but Christ is greater still

The walls of Jericho are too high for Joshua, but Christ is greater still

Gideon’s army is too small, but Christ is greater still

The False Prophets are too demonic, but Christ is greater still

The widow and her son are too poor, but Christ is greater still

Samson is too blind and his hair is too short, but Christ is greater still

Goliath is too big, but Christ is greater still

King Saul is too powerful for David, but Christ is greater still

Daniel’s lions are too hungry, but Christ is greater still

The furnace is too hot for three Hebrew children, but Christ is greater still

The walls are too broken down for Nehemiah, but Christ is greater still

Mary, the Mother of Jesus is too chaste, but Christ is greater still

The storm is too great for the fisherman-turned-disciples, but Christ is greater still

Lazarus is too dead, but Christ is greater still

The back-thrashings are too many for Paul, but Christ is greater still

The death of James is too discouraging for the early Church, but Christ is greater stil

The deaf are too deaf, but Christ is greater still

The blind are too blind, but Christ is greater still

The cripple are too crippled, but Christ is greater still

The lost in sin are too lost in sin, but Christ is greater still

The Cross is too Foolish, but Christ is greater still

The Tomb is too Guarded, but Christ is greater still

The Resurrection is too improbable, but Christ is greater still

And also, for you – my dear mother, Christ is greater still!

 

 

I heard my dad’s tiller say, “&$^%!+_^%($}#”!!!

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This is my dad’s tiller and it’s very, very upset. I heard it cuss’n up a storm as I roto’ed my way through the earth. It seemed to be all heated up for two reasons:

First, it is turning over Obama Land soil – Illinois soil, that is. When I first set the tines to turn, and they automatically turn counter clock-wise while the tires slowly pull forward, the dern thing put the tines in forward motion with the tires, broke the governor on the carburetor, and took off full throttle on its own back to WV! I had to run it down with the truck and pull the gas line before it crossed into Indiana – no tell’n what them dumb hoosiers would have done to it – probably used it to scratch their backs . . . or somethin.

And the second reason for all that briggs-and-stratton rage,

It’s now work’n for a garden hater! For all its days until now it has had the dutiful pleasure of the hands of a gentle man who loved to garden. But not now! This tiller is going to suffer all the days of its wretched life, not only cutting the very soil that its first master deplored, but to boot, its second master hates the very purpose of its existence. I hate gardening – and this stupid machine is going to long for the day that it runs out of oil and blows its gasket . . .  (*)

Miss you so very much dad. From the sweet hand of your Lord, may you enjoy the blissful garden that he has prepared for you (Revelation 22:1-5).

 

 

 

* not responsible for any bad words or snarky attitudes expressed – it’s the tiller’s fault:)

 

“Jesus Paid it Some” – guard your heart from singing this song during the week by worshiping the Lord this Sunday!

Image result for Jesus paid it all

I can list 100 reasons from scripture why I need to regularly worship the Risen Jesus each Sunday – but this one reason ranks nearly the top reason: during the week my heart is prone to drift away from the gospel’s good news that Jesus paid it all – and I mean all of it! This is what I mean and what the author meant to say:

  1. When Jesus died on the cross for my sins, he actually, not potentially paid my debt (John 10:16 – “will be one flock”).
  2. When Jesus died on the cross for my sins, all my sins were future – and not one of my yet future sins was left out (1 Peter 2:24).
  3. When Jesus died on the cross for my sins, his death secured and guaranteed my future faith (John 10:16 – “will hear my voice”; John 10:25-30).
  4. When Jesus died on the cross for my sins, he forever secured his Father’s love for me, so much so, that not one ounce of wrath was left on the scale against me (Rom. 3:21-26).
  5. When Jesus died on the cross, he died specifically for my sins, otherwise, I would not say that. Jesus does not do random. He does not shoot from the hip. He did not make a good attempt. He came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) and will not fail to justify every single one of them (Isa. 53:11-12).

During the week, as we grapple with the world, the flesh, and the devil, our hearts can begin to feel guilty with indwelling sin, so much so, that the song shifts from, “Jesus Paid it All” to “Jesus Paid it Some.” Think about it, if Jesus did not actually and effectively pay it all for all that the Father gave to him (John 6:37, 44; 17:6, 9), then the only alternative is “some.” Do you really want to sing this song on Sunday morning?

Jesus Paid It Some

I hear the Savior say,
You’re not doing enough;
Work your fingers to the bone,
I will save those who are tough.

 

Jesus paid it some
I will do the rest
Sin had left a crimson stain
Now I will give my best

 

For now indeed I’ll try
To earn your love and grace
I’ll add the works I’ve done
To complete the price you paid.

 

Jesus paid it some
I will do the rest
Sin had left a crimson stain
Now I will give my best

 

And when before the throne
I’ll give my deeds to you,
I’ll hope I’ve done enough
To make you let me through.

 

Chorus (repeat 7 times just to be sure)

 

 

How to margarinelize (lighten up) the gospel at Easter.

 

Image result for Easter as told by peeps

If I were a devout Christ-rejecting secularist that already believes that the resurrection of Jesus is a silly myth held by superstitious conservatives, and I drove by a church next Sunday and saw children on the lawn picking up eggs laid by rabbits, I would keep on driving. Why?

Why not?

How am I, a skeptic at heart for the christian dogma supposed to believe that there is something credible, something serious, something awesome and weighty to the blood-splattered cross and earth-shattering resurrection of Jesus when you Christians play games in commemoration of his death, burial, and resurrection? And we all know why you do it – to boost attendance! Surely the first-century church, whose followers were beaten, jailed, ostracized, and became martyrs proclaiming the alleged resurrection, would not attempt to boost attendance on Sunday morning by hosting a “children’s-hunt-for-eggs” laid by rabbits carnival?!?!?!?!

My skepticism would be warranted: there’s nothing really true to believe in.

This is what happens when the church slowly adopts the commercialization of Easter. I’m not against playing make-believe with our children; pretending and role-playing fanciful characters is actually part of what it means to desire a world that is not bound by human brokenness. But when we diminish the glory of Christ’s victory over the greatest enemy of man – death, by luring the skeptic with a lolly-pop, then it should come as no surprise that over time, Easter becomes decentralized in the heart: “see mommy, death can’t be that terrible – I have more bunny eggs in my basket than she does.”

In modern America with its resurrection-merchandising, Easter becomes sensationalized, and consequently, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes marginalized; the gospel is pushed to the outer-edges of our lives, from what was once at the center, full of gravity, to a remote point of insignificance, barely worth dying for. On the very day that is supposed to be approached with the most glorious and joyful heart, with confessional led singing and adoration –  you would think that IF Jesus really did rise from the dead, that believers of this gospel would not confirm the skeptic’s doubt by presenting a great truth with a chocolate bunny, or, a marshmallow peep.

Having spoken with many millennials over the past couple years, and having read real data about what is going on in post-christian America, one of the reasons why the church is rejected en masse is because it just can’t be taken seriously anymore. And no wonder: we now have churches using marshmallow peeps to tell the the most important message that a broken soul could hear. I wonder if the Egyptian Coptic Christians who were murdered this past week by ISIS would still be alive today if only they had used the multi-colored sugarbirds to margarine-ize their witness? That way, possibly, the enemies of the cross would not feel so threatened by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

This coming Lord’s Day, “whatever you do, do to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31)! Sing with unspeakable joy! Give thanks for the most undeserved gift to man! Go deep into the waters of Life! Believe without reservation that Christ is King! If you have any opportunity of influence upon children this coming Sunday, whether because you are a family member, or a Sunday school teacher, or you’re preaching the gospel, do all that you can to joyfully point them to a Savior whose real enough, big enough, and powerful enough to rescue them from sin, death, and the grave.

“He is Risen” does not belong in the candy aisle.

It belongs in the heavens above and in hopeless hearts below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The time I almost shot a Toyota Landcruiser

I recently went shopping with Cheryl at Trader Joe’s in Chicago. In the building parking lot outside the store, was this perfectly restored 1974-76? Toyota Landcruiser. Precious memories flooded my soul. I laughed and had to take some pics and tell this embarrassing, yet funny story. Here it is.

I was 13 years old with a .243 Remington rifle in my hands – very cool!  – all alone on the “stump”, the place that my dad and Alva Blankenship put me that first day of Deer Season, 1977. Deep in the woods of Clay County, WV, past Peach Orchard, was the place where I almost shot Alva’s 1976 Toyota Landcruiser.

Snow was on. We four-wheeled up to the top of the mountain, a place that we would hunt for many years. We unloaded our gear. Alva parked his Landcruiser within sight of where I would be placed so that I could have a point of reference in the woods. Alva took off over the other side of the mountain on foot. Then dad set me up with the rifle, one magazine with four rounds, and we walked down in the dark to “the stump” – a felled tree by lumberjacks and a sweet spot in the woods that became famous for taking bucks. I have no idea what dad said to me, you know, “don’t . . . .” and “be sure to . . .” and “if you need . . .” I can’t remember any of that stuff. I do remember that I got bored, like really quick. Dad slipped away into the dark, past the Landcruiser, and on around the bend, assuring me that he would be only about a couple hundred yards away on the other side of the ridge.

It’s light now. It’s cold. I think I hunted a whole 30 min., an eternity to a 13 year old with ADD to the tenth power, before I started doing what I was taught not to do.

I was taught to never put your finger on the trigger until you had the real target in sight, you looked beyond and around your target, you take the safety off, then and only then do you put your finger on, relax, breath and squeeze. But I was bored out of my brain. So, I began to pretend to see and shoot a 10 point buck: “there it is – a wall mount for sure . . . safety on . . . looking through the scope . . . this is it . . . squeeze . . . fake boom . . . I’m the king of the hill.”

I went down that little escape adventure, back and forth for about 30 min., until . . . I got so distracted at pretending, I lost focus on whether my safety was either on or off. And then, “I turned . . . and there was another one . . . this one was bigger than all the rest . . . he’s running up the hill . . . now he’s standing right in front of the Toyota Landcruiser . . . so what, I can take him . . . breath . . . squeeze . . . no, now he’s running away . . . standing broadside . . . this is it . . . breath, squeeze . . .”

And that’s when the pretending ended. For real: KABOOM!!!!!!!!!! I’ll never forget the feeling, like, the whole universe went up in smoke. Every cell in my body was literally on fire with adrenaline – I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, and as far as I knew, I was swept out into the universe by some massive thing-a-ma-jig. I’m hot as fire now – sweating like all get out. Yes, I had actually shot and killed a tree. And only two seconds earlier, I almost shot a Toyota Landcruiser. “What am I going to do . . . I know, I’ll go get another round from the Toyota so that dad will get his four rounds back and I’ll tell him it was someone else. “Aauughhh – Come on !!!!!!” Alva’s truck was locked. Thinking about it a bit more, “. . . that wouldn’t work anyway – dad knows the sound of this rifle and he’ll smell the barrel and know that I shot it. I got it . . .”

So I made up a cockinmanny story about how I missed a huge buck. Here they come to check on me. With excitement and anticipation, they gleefully tracked that imaginary whitetail for hours looking for a blood trail. I felt sick. From that day until now, I have never, ever, ever, ever played around with my safety button and trigger. From that day to now, every time I’m in the woods with a gun, that incident hits me in the face. But, there’s one more thing to this story,

I was about 28 years old, sitting on the porch one beautiful summer day with dad, home on vacation. And as he was often to do so, Alva stopped by to visit. As they talked, it came to me to confess what I had done. Now and then I had actually thought of spilling it but had never had the nerve to tell them. I thought, “just do it . . . what can they do now?!?!”

“Hey dad, Alva, I have something to tell you.” Dad looked at me with that raised eyebrow, as if he knows something stupid is about to come out of my mouth. Alva just looked at me with that straight smile of his – waiting. I began, “Remember when I shot and missed that buck on the stump when I was 13?” – they’re just looking at me with no response. And then I told them straight out what I just told you. There was total silence. Alva lost his smile – now with pursed lips with his squinty beady eyes. Dad . . . he looked at me with . . . I’m not sure really because . . . I looked away. Looking back at dad now . . . he looks at Alva. Alva looks at him. They look at me. I think Alva is going to get up and punch me. I think dad is going to let him.

Alva begins to laugh.

Dad: “You beat everything – were you out of your mind?!?!?!?”

We had a good laugh that day. Miss you so much dad . . .