Grace for your heroes

Who is your hero? Don’t think about it too long. Who’s the first person that comes to mind? A teacher? A mentor? A parent or grandparent? We all have heroes. Some are older than us. Some are even younger than us. Others are our same age. And even though we know they are “only human” we still elevate them because to us, they’re larger than life. It’s not that we put them on a pedestal (though some of us do), it’s just that we have such high expectations for them.

So what happens when your hero falls? What happens when your hero makes a judgment call that hurts someone else? What happens when your hero sins?

Does it shake your world? Does it rock your faith? Or do you deny it and stand with them regardless of the truth? You know what I’m talking about. You exclaim that the stories can’t be true. You insist that your hero can’t have done anything wrong. How could they? They’re heroes. They know better. They know people are looking up to them, following them. They wouldn’t have made such a horrible choice. They couldn’t have.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but everyone fails. Even your heroes.

8ZB9C03AIJToday’s verses are Romans 3:10-20.

As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.
Snake venom drips from their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
They rush to commit murder.
Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don’t know where to find peace.
They have no fear of God at all.”
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The truth about following Christ is that everyone needs grace, from the worst of us to the best of us. No one is perfect. We know that, but knowing it and living it are two separate things.

It’s really, really easy to fixate on the “good” Christians, the ones who know the Bible, the ones who talk to God, the ones who have the answers. They’re the people we go to when we have questions. They’re the ones we ask when we’re afraid or uncertain or when our faith is faltering. And in our minds we think there’s absolutely no way that they would ever turn against God. They would never disobey. They would never do anything God says is wrong.

No one is righteous means that no one always does the right thing. Does that mean you shouldn’t trust anyone? Does that mean you shouldn’t build relationships with people? No, that’s not what it means at all.

It means that even your heroes need grace. They need the same grace from you that Christ offered to them.

Not excuses. Grace has nothing to do with making excuses. Grace doesn’t live in denial either. Grace recognizes that you’ve screwed up royally yet doesn’t hold it against you.

It’s good to have heroes. It’s good to have people in your life to run to when you’re scared or feeling vulnerable. Just remember that people are people. Don’t put your trust in people. Don’t build your foundation on any person other than Jesus Christ. Because He is the righteous one, and He doesn’t change.

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This world isn’t supposed to work

Most days, living is a privilege. Being alive is a gift. But I’m fully aware how blessed I am, and that not everyone can agree on whether life is a blessing or a curse. At least, as far as this life is concerned. A lot of it depends on your perspective.

But something I’ve learned through the years of following Christ is that we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Whether life is fun or not, whether it’s joyous or not, life here isn’t permanent. None of us are staying. I’m not home yet, and neither are you.

dawn-landscape-sky-sunset_1540x1004Today’s verses are Hebrews 11:13-18.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

How many millions and billions of people have died before us? How many people went into eternity before we were even born? The world may have 6 or 7 billion people living on it now, but other people pre-dated us. And the Bible says none of them have ceased to exist. They’ve continued to “live” but their mailing address has changed to one of two places.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is a beautiful tribute to many of the Bible legends we’ve grown up with. It’s a fast, awesome read, and I highly recommend it. And it points out a number of really important facts about the Christ-followers who preceded us.

None of them got to see the answer to God’s promises while they were alive on Earth. They lived their lives for Him, and He took care of them. He guided them. He was their friend. But in this life, they didn’t get to experience what God has promised.

Hebrews 11 is a tribute to Old Testament heroes. We could write a similar tribute to the heroes of the New Testament, and their story would be the same. They followed God with everything they had. Some gave their lives. But they didn’t get to experience all that God promised while they were walking on the Earth.

The same is true for heroes in other time periods too. And if the Lord continues to be patient with our world, it’s the story others will tell about Christ-followers of my generation. We followed Christ, but we didn’t get to see all of His promises fulfilled.

So here’s the question: Do you only do something right because you’ll be reward for it? Do you only maintain a relationship for what you can get out of it? Or is it enough to know what what you’re doing is right and that you get to play a role in a bigger story?

Don’t be frustrated when life doesn’t work out the way you want. Things in this world aren’t supposed to work. It’s broken, remember? And don’t even be frustrated when God’s plan doesn’t go the way you expect. He knows what He’s doing.

God has made promises. And, make no mistake, He’ll keep them all. But as a Christ-follower, we have to willing to accept that we may not see them while we’re alive on Earth. What’s great, though, is that we will see them. We just need to remember that this life isn’t about us and what we want. This life is about Jesus. Sort of like how eternity is about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So make your life about Him and watch what happens.

Are you following a hero who will let you down?

Who’s your hero? That was a question I got asked as a kid frequently, and usually the answer was my parents. That’s not a bad answer. Not at all. It’s not even an untrue answer. I just can’t exactly tell you I thought about it very seriously. It was an answer people liked, so I went with it.

There were people I loved and admired, sure. My parents were among them. And I had an army of role models who have continued to be guiding lights in my life, even now. But a hero?

I caught part of the tribute to Stevie Wonder on TV last night. Lots of famous musical artists from around the world had  gathered to honor this man who had changed their lives. To many of them, Stevie Wonder was their hero. And that’s great. I’m sure he’s a great person. I don’t know him personally. I don’t know his life. I do know he’s been a major influence on music in my lifetime, and I do appreciate that.

But what is a hero?

Maybe Stevie Wonder is a great guy, but do you want to live your life exactly the way he has? Maybe that movie star you admire is really successful, but do you want to make the same choices? Even in your life now. That person who you look up to and spend so much time with, do you really want to pattern your life after theirs?

I guess what I getting at is that any hero you place your faith in on this Earth is going to let you down. Any hero you follow without question is going to give you bad advice at some point. Or they’re going to do something foolish that will make you lose faith in them.

There’s only ever been One Person who could truly live up to the expectations of a true hero.

heroToday’s verses are Hebrews 4:14-16.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Does it sound uber-churchy to say your hero is Jesus? That’s what I was always afraid of, so I would make up other answers of people who I thought were cool. But my real hero has always been Jesus. Why?

He’s never let me down. He’s never broken a promise. He’s never led me wrong. His life was perfect, even though He faced all the same things I have. His death was for me, and with His resurrection I have new life.

In our world, we glorify and glamorize sports teams or musicians. We set actors and politicians up on pedestals. We applaud their humanitarian giving and their generous spirits, and if one of them happens to mention God in a speech, we get all excited. Because you have to be really bold to talk about God in Hollywood.

And I’m sure you do. I’ve never been to Hollywood, so I don’t know. I imagine it’s really intimidating to thank God for the prestigious award you’ve won in front of lights and cameras and everyone. But what’s more important? Thanking God for what He’s done for you or living a life that demonstrates that thankfulness?

We criticize church people for hypocrisy all the time, but we rejoice when somebody famous thanks God for something and then turns around and lives a lifestyle devoid of any sort of conviction or faith.

I don’t want to pick on anyone. Let me tell you, I’ve read a lot of books by a lot of really awesome writers, and if I had the opportunity to pick their brains, I’d love it. But I’m not going to say they’re my hero because they did something I admire.

I’ve seen lots of amazingly talented movie stars and musicians, and maybe I stand in awe of what they are capable of doing. But I would never call one of them my hero just because they can do something I can’t do.

No. To me, a hero is someone you pattern your life after. It’s someone you follow. It’s someone whose footsteps you seek out and walk in. You do what they do, because they’re your hero, and you want to be just like them.

So think seriously before you start claiming people as your heroes. It’s a big deal. Because you will become like whoever you’re following. Pattern your life after another person who’s just as lost as you are, and you’ll end your life without hope, regardless of whether the world calls you successful or not.

Don’t be ashamed to call Jesus your hero. Don’t be afraid that you’ll sound like a crazy person. You might sound nuts, but people thought Jesus was nuts too. So it comes with the territory.

There’s only one hero in our world, and that’s Jesus. He gave His life for us. He gave up everything He had for our sake. He lived a perfect life, and He conquered death. He came to our world and did the impossible, and He made a way for us to do the impossible too.

Who wouldn’t want a hero like that?

Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

I know my God saved the day

I remember watching a cartoon channel when I was very young, and one of its little features that it would run was the old show Mighty Mouse. I don’t even know when that old cartoon started playing. I think my mom was little. But Mighty Mouse’s little theme song always stuck with me.

Here I come to save the day!

That’s what heroes do, right? They save things. They rescue people. Well, in his own little world, I guess Mighty Mouse was a hero. But being a hero in the real world works a little differently than in the cartoon world.

Can a person actually save the day? You’ve heard that saying before. So-and-so saved the day! But I’m not really sure a puny little person like you or me can actually save anything.

We were singing a song in Judgement House praise and worship Wednesday night, “Salvation Is Here.” It’s a classic. Upbeat. Great lyrics. Inspiring. And after a day like I’d had, I needed to remember that we have salvation through Christ.

The chorus to this song begins: “ ‘Cause I know my God saved the day.”

For a moment, I thought of Mighty Mouse. Is that sacrilegious? Or any other litany of superheroes who are all about saving the day. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big superhero fan. I love those types of comic book stories. I love their symbolism, that someone stronger than us has to come along to help us otherwise we’d all be done for. But in real life, we don’t have superheroes. Yes, we have heroes, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have heroes in my life who have rescued me from a lot. But the only real superhero in real life is God.

Think about the definition of a hero, and that’s who God is. He sacrificed to save us. He rescued us when He didn’t have to. And He did it Himself.

Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Ezekiel 34:11-12.

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.

God saves the day all the time. But what does it mean to save the day? To me, it means that a day that could have been rotten turned out awesome. It means that a day where everything could have gone wrong ended on a high note where everything worked out. Who can do that but God?

Saving the day is definitely in God’s job description. I just don’t think we think about it. I mean, He’s God. That’s what He’s supposed to do, right? But just because it’s something we expect of Him doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate it. And we absolutely shouldn’t ignore it.

So how has God saved your day recently? What situation did He work out in your life that you thought wouldn’t never happen? What help did He give you that you didn’t expect to come? What way did He provide for you that you never saw coming?

Pay attention. Remember. Take a moment and think about it, and then thank Him for it. Maybe we expect Him to save the day, but that doesn’t mean He has to. God is God. He can do whatever He wants, yet He chooses to shower us with His love and His blessings and offer us His help and guidance. He deserves praise and glory and honor even if He didn’t help us get through a day because He’s God. But how much more should we adore Him because He loves us? How much more should we thank Him because He wants to help us?

Remember, He doesn’t have to. But He does because He loves us. And if that isn’t a superhero, I don’t know what is.

I know my God saved the day today. And I’m glad about it. How about you?