Life from Death

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Most of us have faced some type of tragedy or crises in our lives. These events may stop us in our tracks. They may cause us to cry out for help or send us running for cover. In the midst of our plight, we may feel hopeless, as if there is simply no way out. The hole is too deep, the hurt to painful, the damage to devastating.

But that is never the case. There is always a way out. Even from the clutches of death, life can be restored. That’s not some motivational hyperbole…I’ve seen it first hand in the lives of real people. These are people who believed they had reached the end of their rope be it physically, spiritually or both, and saw no path to restoration.

Recently I was privileged to walk with man who’s spent his entire life living in the midst of extreme dysfunction. Physical and emotional abuse as well as rampant drug use surrounded him since he was a boy. This led to issues of anger as well as terrible life choices of his own including drug use & dealing, gang affiliation and violence. After an arrest he was offered the opportunity of entering a 15 month residential rehab program. Today, a graduate of that program, Dennis, 35 and 18+ months clean, is working for a missionary catering company and studying to become a world class chef. He has a positive outlook as he builds a promising future. From near death, came life.

My dear friend Bobby lived a life of alcohol and cocaine addiction that spanned 38 years. He affiliated with organized crime and had one priority in mind…Bobby. At age 55, his kidneys and liver failing, he reluctantly entered a rehabilitation program. It was there that he hit his knees, cried out to God for rescue, and began the journey from death to life. Today he is 7 years sober, physically and spiritually restored and actively helping other addicts find hope.

A few years back, I had the honor of baptizing a man named Steve, who had been watching our church’s service on line. He’d never physically been to the building. He had been watching on line, not because he lived far from the church, or because he had other obligations that kept him from visiting…He watched on line because he was wheelchair bound and simply found it easier. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) had ravaged his body and taken most of his mobility.

He came to be baptized on a Monday evening in front of a small crowd of about 100 people. His lifelong friend and I basically carried him from his chair, into the baptismal pool. After a brief discussion and his affirmation of having accepted Jesus, we took him under the water and raised him back up. Water mixed with tears dripped down his face as he turned to me and said: “Now I feel complete”…From the shadow of death, came life.

The photo above was taken this past week in the Black Forest region of Colorado Springs. Four years ago, a fire destroyed over 14,000 acres, 500 homes and took two lives in that beautiful community. The spot that photo was taken from was part of the area scorched by the fire. In the background you can see what’s left of a few of the thousands of trees that were decimated. But in the foreground, at the feet of death, new life has been brought forth.

In the movie Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) eloquently states; “Life finds a way”. He is so very right. Life does find a way. And that way is only because of the goodness of God. Death is permanent; except where God is present. If we can press through the valley of the shadow, He will always bring life on the other side. Watch for it; work for it; wait for it; believe it.

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Rules Are Like Vegetables; They Really Are Good For Us!

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The old adage “rules are made to be broken” is sometimes (although rarely) a statement of truth. Sometimes there does need to be some bending, and occasionally they need to be rewritten. But one thing that has gotten lost is that they are almost always there for our good…for our protection.

There was a time in our society when rules were honored; viewed as guidelines not so much to restrict us, but to protect us. We would all agree for example, that having traffic signals at busy intersections, speed limits on our neighborhood streets and laws protecting our children from abuse are good and needed.

While even the above mentioned restrict us from certain activities (I can’t just run the red light because I’m in a hurry), what they accomplish more importantly, is to provide that protection for us, both individually and as a society. As time has marched on however, it seems that we have strayed further and further from placing value on rules and laws that were designed for our security and sanctuary. What’s best and what’s true have become relative.

We have come to place more value on individual rights and alleged freedoms, than on guidelines that benefit the whole of society. Our “right” to be happy has resulted in us abandoning our spouses and children, legalizing drugs that don’t benefit, but potentially degrade our society, condoning hate against people we’ve never met, and ensuring we can use whatever bathroom we feel inclined to use on any given day, regardless of the impact to others.

We often see these issues and many others, conveyed as societal freedoms that we all should have a right to engage in and express. Examine them closely however and you cannot help escape the reality that they are all desires to gain approval for fulfillment of individual preferences while ignoring the affect they have on the rights and protections of others.

Infidelity and divorce devastate not only our spouse and children, but friends and other family members who have vested years into a relationship with our family unit. The grass may appear greener for the one doing the leaving, but what they leave behind is nothing but scorched earth.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use may make those who smoke it feel good, but what do we really know about the impact on their ability to parent their children well (not to mention what it may do to their children’s view of drug use); or on their job performance, or ability to drive a car. What of the rights of the tens of millions of drivers on the road who don’t partake? Is their safety not as valuable as an individual’s right to impair their reaction time for the sake of a good high?

Does your daughter (and the tens of millions of other daughters) not have the right to feel confident that the sign outside the public restroom door that says “Ladies”, actually means what it says?

Does this all sound a bit political to you? Well actually, it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with what is (or is not) socially and morally beneficial to our community as a whole. Simply put, coming to terms with what’s best for the greater good, not what’s best for my good.

This is what God does. Many look at the Bible as a book of rules and limitations to make our lives dull and difficult. The reality is, it is anything but. It calls us to adventure, risk and excitement. It is also filled with guardrails to protect us from the carnage and chaos we would wreak upon ourselves if left to our own whims. He put these guardrails (these rules) in place not to limit or punish us, but to protect us.

In John 10:1-16 Jesus tells a story of himself as the good shepherd and us as his sheep, living in His pen. The pen is not a place of restriction or limitation, but a peaceful place of protection. Are there rules? Yes but all are designed for our greater good. Outside the pen we can find many shiny temptations…some would say freedoms. But they are designed, not to allow us some Utopian, unfettered liberties, but to cause us pain and eventually destroy us.

In his book “Speak Life” my pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church calls these protections, “fences that God has lovingly built for us”. He refers to sexual fences, relational and attitudinal fences. Fences that guide us in areas of finances, communication and moderation. All are designed to protect us; all of us. When we jump these fences, we immerse ourselves in a world that lures us further and further from the sanctuary we were designed for, and deeper into a false sense of freedom that actually turns out to be a prison.

Most of us have seen the movie, “The Wizard of Oz”. In it, Dorothy, the Kansas farm girl finds herself transported to the magical (and dangerous) land of Oz. If she hopes to return to her native Kansas, she must do so by making her way to The Emerald City and garnering the good graces of the wizard. To accomplish this, she must follow the yellow brick road. Staying on this road will not only bring her to her destination, but keep her safe as well. For to veer off the road, only for a moment, can bring disaster and even death.

In their excitement as they near the city, her and her companions attempt a short cut through a beautiful field of flowers, only to find themselves quickly under a spell cast by the wicked witch. If only they had stayed on the road. You see, the road was not about rules and regulations. It was not about punishment or restrictions. It was about protection. (Spoiler Alert: Dorothy makes it to the Emerald City and back to Kansas!)

As a young child attempts to run into the street without a thought for the danger, you grab his hand a pull him back. You do this, not with thought of punishment or limitation, but of protection. This is what God offers us in the pages of the Bible.

It’s critical that we remember that; it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Let’s honor the guardrails and fences God has created to protect us, and walk in His glorious freedom. It’s better for you, it’s better for me…more importantly, it’s better for all of us. And while you’re at it, have a carrot or perhaps some broccoli!