Kids? Really?

Last week the National Football League held its annual draft and ESPN provided news coverage in the same manner as Fox News would cover the Republican National Convention. It was interesting to me that the sports journalists time and again referred to the twenty-two years olds being drafted as “kids.” Kids? Really? When did a twenty-two year old man become a kid? As I heard someone say on the radio a few days ago, “When my dad was nineteen, he was in a prisoner of war camp.”

At the risk of sounding like the dad who lectured his children about having to walk-to-school-in-the-snow-without-shoes-uphill-both-ways; at twenty-two, I had been married for a year, and was working my way through seminary at Sears and Roebuck, and we were thinking about starting a family. I didn’t have time to be a “kid.” I am thankful that I had a Dad who was involved in life, was always there for me, yet, when the time was right, pushed me out of the nest so that I had to learn to fly on my own. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me how to be a man.

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Some Words of Wisdom from James Haldane

The Gospel is very generally misunderstood by those who profess to believe. They view it as a scheme for making up their deficiencies through the merits of Christ; but this is ‘another gospel.’ The Gospel of Christ is addressed to those who are far from righteousness; who are poor and blind, and naked; who have no money to purchase salvation, no merit to recommend them to the favour of God. Christ came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If we are not sinners we have nothing to do with the Gospel; and if we are sinners, let us not reject the counsel of God against ourselves, by vainly supposing that anything about us gives us a peculiar claim to his favour, or by imagining that our sins are too great to be forgiven. The righteousness of God is altogether irrespective of our obedience. The thief upon the cross was saved by faith in Jesus, and none shall enter heaven in any other way.”—James Haldane

I came across this quote of James Haldane, a 19th century Scottish pastor, on Monergism.com and it reminded me of two things that I already knew, but needed to have reinforced in my understanding of the Gospel. The first truth is that we must never forget that we, to use Haldane’s terminology, have no “peculiar claim to [God’s] favor.” We are not inherently good people who just need “a little help” to be in right standing with a holy, majestic God. We are sinners whose hearts are “deceitful above all things” (Side note: If there was ever a warning to never follow our own heart, this is it) and would never deserve to experience God’s mercy and grace no matter how diligently we worked at it. This is a very humbling truth in terms of how we see God and ourselves, and also should keep us from looking down our noses at others as we remember, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

However, Haldane also reminds us that we should never despair because we imagine “that our sins are too great to be forgiven.” As 1Peter 1:17-18 points out, we were “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” His perfect sacrifice on the cross “cleanses us from all sin,” no matter how dark or destructive. He simply requires that we look to Him in faith, with repentant hearts trusting not in what we have done, or will do; but totally trusting in what He has done on our behalf.

As another Scot, Horatius Bonar, has so wonderfully written:

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

“That’s Why I’m Here (The Chris & Stefanie Spielman Story)” by Chris Spielman with Bruce Hooley

I just finished reading Chris Spielman’s new book entitled, That’s Why I’m Here (The Chris & Stefanie Spielman Story).” It is a story about his career as an All-American linebacker at Ohio State University, Pro Bowl linebacker for the Detroit Lions, and, most importantly, his and his wife’s twelve year battle against breast cancer (she died in November, 2009). In a CBS Sports interview Spielman was asked, “How did your wife’s diagnosis change your perspective on life?

His answer was very direct and thought-provoking: “ [It helped me realize] that I can’t control everything. That I can’t out-prepare, out-work, out-lift, out-run. [sic] And that’s hard for a competitive guy, who basically thought that success was based solely on effort and toughness and strength and endurance. It’s not. There are some things that you cannot control.”

There are situations that come into our lives that are bigger than we are. Sometimes it is a disease; sometimes it is a broken relationship; sometimes it is simply a life that didn’t turn out the way we had planned; but is something that we are unable to defeat, repair, or change, no matter how diligently we “prepare, work, lift, or run.” It is in times like these that we need the grace of God.

When we could not keep God’s Law and deserved His wrath and curse for our cosmic treason, Christ kept the Law on our behalf and experienced God’s wrath on the cross so that we would not have to face the penalty for our sin. When we face situations that overwhelm us, we are reminded of Christ’s promise to His people that He will not leave us, nor forsake us, but will finish the work that He has started in our lives. When we face death itself, the One who “holds the keys to death and the grave” will be there so that though “we die, yet shall we live.” God does have a purpose and plan for each of our lives as we live out our lives for His glory. We just have to trust in the One who does have total control; the one to whom “every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that [He] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Christ, our Lord.

(Although I might have a few theological quibbles with the book, football junkies will enjoy the story of Spielman’s playing days, and it is also a marvelous love story of a husband and wife facing dark days together in the strength of their Lord. The book is an easy read, and I enjoyed it very much. Ladies, you might need a box of Kleenex or two.)