The Men Who Worked on Skyscrapers

October 17, 2012 at 9:42 am | Posted in Salvation | 7 Comments
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And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.

Genesis 32:24-32

There are regulations in place these days for the safety of men who work on skyscrapers. They are required to be harnessed. They wear straps and belts and they follow rules designed to make sure that they are not in real danger of falling. But it was not always so.

lunch-atop-a-skyscraper

Years and years ago, the men who built the skyscrapers that make up the skyline of big cities like New York and Chicago and Houston had a special knack for working at dizzying and terrifying heights. They became so accustomed to walking on beams and girders with nothing to hold onto for balance, that they hardly noticed anymore the perilous conditions under which they existed every day.

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They strode back and forth, over and around, in and out of the maze of the steel frameworks that extended 50, 60, 100 stories into the sky. They no longer noticed the gusts of wind, the creaking of the infrastructure, the shadows and glaring sunlight. You may have seen this picture of the construction workers balanced on each end of a suspended beam, eating their lunch in midair, as if they were on a bench at the park and not precariously balanced thousands of feet from a gruesome mortality.

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They became sure-footed without thinking about it and forgot about the danger. Until one day. Once in a while, one of these workers would be strolling at a rapid clip, a riveting gun in one hand, his lunch pail in the other hand, and his work boot would slide on a loose bolt, maybe a piece of paper from the foreman’s plans, maybe a tiny puddle of water, and suddenly – his arms began to pinwheel – he teetered out into the abyss – and like a bolt of lightning he suddenly realized where he was and what was happening. This fall would not result in a skinned knee or even a bloody nose crunching into the ground. No, this fall would result in 60 seconds of gut-wrenching screaming, followed by certain death. His co-workers wouldn’t even be able to identify anything except the greasy spot and a pock-mark in the earth. Desperately, he reaches out – for something – for anything – and he seizes hold of a nearby girder. He holds this girder in a death-grip. His whole world has taken a seismic shift, and his reality has narrowed to one thing and one thing only: DO NOT LET GO OF THIS BEAM.

Completely gone is the sure-footed, fearless skywalker. No more careless disregard for the height. His friends come to his rescue, but they are utterly unable to pry his fingers from the beam. He is stark white, fixated on the distance to the earth below, and his hands have cleaved unto the life-saving girder. Eventually, his fingers must be pried loose with a crow-bar, breaking several of them. He will never scale a skyscraper again. He will never be the same.

When I was younger I was like those construction workers who worked on skyscrapers. But my paths were not beams of steel 80 stories above the ground. My paths were the paths of sin. I grew up in a part of the country where men solved their problems at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a fist. And I was well on my way to being just like them. I was extremely well-acquainted and sure-footed with sin. I lied just because I liked to lie. I had thoughts about girls – and would have made those thoughts a reality if I could – that were so wicked and perverse that if I told anyone the least offensive of those thoughts, no one would ever be my friend or speak to me again. I would hurt anyone that I could – including my parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends – if I could get an advantage by doing so. I loved me more than anyone else and I gave all my worship to me. I would have told you I believed in God, but I had made up a god with my own mind who could help me out on report card day and keep me from getting in too much trouble, but who really didn’t mind my sin all that much, and who thought I was a pretty swell fellow. In my imagination he was keeping track of my good deeds versus my bad deeds to see if I could go to heaven one day, but I was pretty sure that he would slip his finger on the scale on the day of judgment to get me in, because, after all, heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without me there.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I was noble in my sin, either. I was not like Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, or like James Dean, struggling against a society that just didn’t “get me.” Most of my sins – I thought – were secret, so I can’t brag about how “tough” or even “rebellious” I was when it came to authority figures. But one day, I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and my foot slipped on the blood which had poured down Calvary onto the beam of my sin. And, clutching desperately, I grabbed for Jesus, and I have never let go. It is His strength that strengthens my hands and fingers. Now I do not walk with a physical limp like Jacob, but I am no longer completely “in-step” with the ways of this world. When I am yielded to the Spirit there is something different about my “walk” that should be noticeable to others. Jesus allowed me to grab hold of Him, wrestle with Him, and get the “blessing.” But my world has never tilted back. We must see what we need to be saved from. We must see the One Who can save us. We must reach out without pride – with our sense of self-sufficiency completely broken. And we must never forget what we were leaning and wheeling toward when He caught us and saved us.

If you’ve never had a moment like that, then how are you going to love Him? How are you going to see Him for Who He really is? How are you going to see yourself for who you really are? And how are you going to serve Him when nobody else is? Jacob dared to wrestle with the Lord because He was scared, and the Lord let him prevail and blessed him. Your sin ought to cause you to wrestle with God, not flee from Him.

The Crisis

August 31, 2012 at 11:38 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring, Salvation, The Great White Throne | 13 Comments
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I once heard a preacher say to his congregation: “You are in the Bible.” This is a strange statement because the events that are recorded in the Bible, for the most part, took place thousands of years ago. What he meant was that you might very well be one of the ones standing in the crowd described in this passage of Scripture:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 20:11-14 (emphasis added)

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not yet among the “dead,” and I pray that you will never go to face God before His Great White Throne in judgment, but we must deal clearly and directly with that possibility.

You may have heard preachers say that you can find yourself in the Bible in another, less-frightening place. They will tell you that you can insert your own name in this well-known Bible verse:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that [insert your name here] should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

The words that are supposed to be replaced by your name are “whosoever believeth in him,” referring to believing in Jesus Christ. If you will believe the truth about Jesus Christ and call upon Him to save you from the just punishment for your sins against God, then He will give you eternal life. If you will be the “whosoever” of John 3:16, you can avoid being the other kind of “whosoever:”

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

Being unsure about any of this should bring you to a crisis. A crisis is a critical, crucial moment. It is when you come to a fork in the road of your life and you have to make a decision to go one way or the other. Going back is not an option and standing still is not an option.

Here’s an example: Pretend you are in the doctor’s office. You have been there many times before – for checkups and for minor treatments. Usually it is routine. Every once in a while you get some medicine, or at worst a mildly painful injection, but you always leave the doctor’s office with the hope that everything is okay – that you are going to get better. But this time it’s different. Instead of the doctor telling you it’ll be okay, he is very serious. His voice almost shakes and this scares you. He is telling you something you have never heard before and never expected to hear in a million years. He says you have a terrible disease – it is all over you – it has invaded your body and will eat you alive – and you will die. He goes on to explain some of the details about your condition. He has test results. He has x-rays, and they show that your body is black with this disease. He is trying to tell you there is a chance to survive – but only one chance. You must have surgery right now – right this minute – no thinking it over, no talking to your family and friends, no second opinion. Get to the emergency room right now and submit to being cut open – or die.

Now you see the meaning of a crisis: only two choices. No standing still, no waiting, no going back. Trust your life to a surgeon or die. Could you accept such a diagnosis? Or would you begin to hesitate? “I can’t be as sick as he says. I feel fine physically. I am strong. I am relatively young. Surgery is a major ordeal. It’s serious, my whole life will have to change. No more eating whatever I want, drinking whatever I want, no more staying out late doing whatever I want. I can’t just lie down on an operating table and trust a surgeon to cut me open. I like to be in control. I’ll control this with medicine. I’ll exercise, eat right, get more rest, change my lifestyle. I’ll do it in my own strength.”

When the doctor begins to plead with you and threaten you, you cup your hands over your ears, and you run out… thereby cutting yourself off from the only remedy.

Is this what goes through your mind when someone corners you with a Bible or tries to tell you that you are going to hell without Jesus? “This is too much to face. I can’t just trust God. Everyone will laugh at me. This is a big step. What if God really does give me a new heart and I don’t like to do the fun things of this world any more? What if I become God’s child and, like a good father, He begins correcting me when I sin? I like to sin – I don’t want God’s Spirit living inside me making me feel bad all the time. I can’t just stop doing the things I do for fun – the things I’m addicted to. Maybe I can cut back some. I’ll work on it myself. Maybe I can change the kind of person I am. I’ll go to church more often. I’ll even volunteer to do some work there. I’ll show God I’m not so bad.”

Please do not cover your eyes and cup your hands over your ears. Please do not run away. Sit still for a moment and stop thinking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your day. Put out of your mind the problems you will face at work tomorrow. Forget about what other people will think of you. This is about you and God. If you lie down and submit to Him, He is not like the earthly surgeon. Even if an earthly surgeon cures you it will only last for a little while. When God performs surgery, the surgery will be successful. The new heart that He will give you will be capable of loving and obeying God. You will care about eternal, important, valuable things – not the foolish everyday cares and concerns of this world. You can’t understand the joy of salvation until you experience it. Will you receive it today? Will you receive Him today?

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

I John 5:12

Eternally Paid in Full

March 12, 2010 at 9:04 am | Posted in Eternity | 14 Comments
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In the Book of Philemon, the Apostle Paul acts as a guarantor on behalf of a runaway slave, Onesimus. Onesimus illegally ran away from his master, Philemon, and wound up meeting Paul. Paul led him to Jesus Christ, and Onesimus was saved. Paul, who was in prison at the time, sent Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter.

Paul’s promise to Philemon in this letter is an illustration of the role that Jesus Christ, the Great Guarantor, plays in the salvation of Christians on a far grander scale.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it…

Philemon vv. 18-19

Before I was “born again” to new life in Christ Jesus, I owed a debt to God I could never pay. My sins had violated His holy law, and no amount of good works or anything else could make up for it. The Lord Jesus, on the hill called Calvary, paid off my sin-debt in full with His blood.

Such a transaction is difficult to describe, first of all because of its enormity and greatness, and second of all, because of the overpowering emotions it evokes in those who have been saved. I would probably not agree with every point of theology held by the Puritans, but you have to give them credit for this: As one preacher said, they thought great thoughts about God. Here is a passage from Puritan preacher and theologian, John Flavel, that some have called “The Father’s Bargain.” It imagines a conversation between God and Jesus in the councils of eternity as the Son agreed with the Father to do what Paul promised to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus: to pay his debt in full, no matter how great.

Here you may suppose the Father to say, when driving his bargain with Christ for you:

Father: My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls? And thus Christ returns.

Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures (for so indeed it did, 2 Cor. viii. 9. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”), yet I am content to undertake it.

John Flavel

Please do not tell me that God will start charging sins to my account, now that I am saved… after Jesus Christ paid for them so thoroughly and so completely.

LIke Father, Like Child

June 8, 2009 at 9:10 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, Biblical Walking | 10 Comments
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Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

Ephesians 5:1

Have you ever seen a little boy with a toy lawnmower, following closely behind as his father uses the real thing a few steps ahead?

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Or a little girl using a pretend steering wheel in the passenger seat of a car, as her mother drives down the road?

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQtAdqGSXwMmNRWlyyTvTRlxTXGhVZ7TZS81u8AlHDjng33dvglfAtoy steering wheel

It’s just a simple fact of life that children like to imitate their parents.

If you have been brought to repentance and redemption by the sovereign grace of God, then you have a “spiritual Father” that should be even more important to you than an earthly parent is to his or her child. In like manner, you should desire to walk after, and to imitate, your Heavenly Father.

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Ephesians 5:2

God is love (I John 4:8). For a Christian, born into the family of God, and therefore being a partaker of God’s divine nature (II Peter 1:4), to not be loving is to fail to be an imitator or a follower of our Father. It has been well said that, in the New Covenant, love is not something – love is the thing.

Acting Like We’ve Been There

May 8, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 5 Comments
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Christians have a great deal to be excited and joyous about. Our Father is the Creator and Owner of this world. Our eternal inheritance includes riches beyond comprehension (Ephesians 3:8). Our Big Brother is the strongest, most loyal, and faithful Friend in Whom we could ever hope (Romans 8:29; Revelation 1:5).

However, Christians must be careful about giving in to frustration, since the world we are passing through does not share our views. Knowing our privileged standing before the Almighty (even though we do not deserve it), there may be a tendency to be combative with those who oppose us on behalf of the ungodly system of this world.

The Bible is clear about the Christian’s behavioral duties toward those who are lost:

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

Titus 3:2

What will help me control my temper when confronted with the evil of worldly unbelievers? The memory that I was once like them:

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

Titus 3:3

Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is strength which is brought under control.

Lately, I’ve been posting an ongoing dialogue between a Christian and a Professing Atheist. For some reason, the number of views I get on this site skyrockets when I mention professing atheists. I always use the term “professing atheist,” because there’s no such thing as a “real atheist.” An “atheist” would be someone who truly believes that there is no God. Everyone knows deep down that God is real. Professing atheists just choose to try to hide from, run from, fight against, hold down, willfully ignore, or rebel against, this truth.

I meet quite a few professing atheists in real life, but most of the unsaved people I meet claim to believe in God – they just don’t live like it. It’s a different story in internet-land. Most professing atheists on the internet claim all kinds of morality and kindness and good deeds and love for fellow man, but refuse to give glory to God.

Maybe I get so many “views” because I use the tag “atheism debate.” I like to get the views and comments, but the reality is, when I encounter a professing atheist, I’m not debating. I’m proclaiming Truth. They can debate all they want. (I have a number of theories about why so many professing atheists enjoy “debating,” but I’ll save that for another time.)

Just remember, the Holy Spirit caused the Apostle Paul to say:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…

Romans 1:16

The inference is that there is a tendency to be ashamed that needs to be overcome. Thankfully, the Bible goes on to tell us the reason for not being ashamed:

…for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…

Romans 1:16

Telling the truth can seem so cruel, unloving, and fanatical, but it is really the most loving thing you can do for someone who is perishing.

I once heard a very gifted preacher tell a story about sitting on a plane next to a professing atheist. The professing atheist had a number of pretentious excuses for his “unbelief,” and the preacher, who was skilled in Christian apologetics, demolished every excuse, and clearly won the debate. The professing atheist got off the plane frustrated and angry. Afterward, the preacher’s ministry partner, who had been observing the whole affair, said to the preacher privately, “Well, you won the debate… but you didn’t win the man.”

The Christian’s responsibility is to proclaim the Truth in love, not to win a debate.

Paul Washer Really S.W.I.M.s Hard

March 16, 2009 at 11:09 am | Posted in Quotes | 2 Comments
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We drink down sin as though it were water. We are like fish who swim in a culture of sin. Fish never recognize they are wet. They really don’t think about it because they are surrounded in it all the time. We can not understand the depth of the wickedness and the sinfulness of sin.

Paul Washer

Of all the differences between you and the Lord Jesus, this is the one that should be most obvious: He never sinned; you sin all the time. (Romans 3:10-12)

Ministry Addict


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