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A Father’s Heartbreak

alone-96856_150Several years ago, as I was leaving a Burger King parking lot with my teenage son, Andrew, I carefully looked left and then right.  Seeing that the way was clear, I pulled out and turned left onto the hilly road.  Seemingly out of nowhere, a car whizzed by just in front of us, missing a violent full-speed collision by a mere few feet.  As I caught my breath, I realized that a split second had meant the difference between Andrew living a normal life and Andrew either being killed or possibly paralyzed for life.  I quietly drove home, pondering what an unimaginable heartbreak I would have faced, a heartbreak that no amount of success or happiness elsewhere could have overcome.

A few weeks later, after I had said good-night to Andrew, I quietly returned to his bedroom, peeking in the door at his still body as he drifted off to sleep.  Suddenly his left leg moved slightly, and I flashed back to that near collision.  I quietly thanked God for protecting Andrew and for sparing me the incomprehensible anguish of losing my only son, whom I love with every fiber of my being.

And then it dawned on me.  God the Father was not spared the unimaginable heartbreak of losing His only Son.  The One whom I was thanking experienced that very heartbreak.  And He experienced it because of me, because of my sin, and because of His unfathomable love for me.  He sacrificed His only Son to pay the penalty that I owe but cannot pay myself.

And then I wondered what it would be like to sacrifice my son so that others could live – only to have no one tell anyone about it.  Is that what we do when we fail to obey Jesus’ Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20)?  Is that how God the Father feels when we don’t seek to proclaim the Good New and make disciples?

The Immeasurable Value of You

ValueDid you ever stop and consider your value and worth to your Creator?  Exactly how much are you worth to Him?

To answer this question, let’s examine three different ways to measure worth and value:

   Your comparative worth (that is, how much are you worth compared to other things)

   Your exchange value (that is, how much would one give in exchange for you)

   Your purchase price (that is, how much would one pay to purchase you)

Your comparative worth is described in Zechariah 2:8 (NLT), where people are identified as the LORD Almighty’s “most precious possession.”  To gain a little perspective on this declaration from God, consider the expanse of His creation.  Our planet is part of the Milky Way galaxy, which contains more than 100 billion stars and is more than 5 trillion miles across.  Scientists have discovered that the visible universe may contain approximately 100 billion similar galaxies.  Within the great expanse of these 100 billion galaxies, the value of human souls, including your own, surpasses that of anything else in the entire universe.  The Creator of all that exists declares that you are His most precious possession (Zechariah 2:8 NLT).  He declares that you are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).  That’s a mighty strong endorsement!

Your exchange value is described in Mark 8:36-37, where Jesus asks, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the gross domestic product (the market value of the nation’s output of goods and services) was approximately $17.4 trillion last year.  And according to the Central Intelligence Agency, the gross world product (the total value of all goods and services produced within all the nations of the world) was approximately $71.8 trillion last year.  According to Jesus, if you gain all of this but forfeit your own soul, you have made a foolish exchange.  Your soul is worth far more than $71.8 trillion, or any other monetary figure one can come up with.

Your purchase price is described in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, where Paul declares that “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”  Our purchase price is the One who brought all that exists into existence, Jesus Himself.  God’s purchase of us at the price of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross declares the matchless value God places on you – and on all human souls.

Such is your surpassing value and worth! 

God declares that you are His masterpiece, you are worth more than $71.8 trillion or any other monetary figure, and you are worth the purchase price of God’s Son. 

So the next time you’re tempted to devalue yourself, remember how much your Creator values you and let that define how much you value yourself.

P.S.  And just maybe, together, we can also try to remember that such is the worth and value of every human with whom we will ever lock eyes!

Stuck in Time

TimeA few weeks ago, when I found myself dwelling a little too much in the past and extrapolating a little too much into the future and not living to the hilt right where I was in the present, these words flowed onto paper:

 

Stuck in Time

 

We’re stuck in time – we can’t go back and recreate our past;

We must find peace abiding in the shadows it has cast.

Its sorrows may have slowly crept, its joys sped by too fast,

But what has been has forged within sweet memories that last.

 

We’re stuck in time – we can’t advance to any future date.

What dreams will be reality?  What fears will become fate?

The answers may come early, or to us they may seem late –

What’s yet to be we’ll clearly see, but for it we must wait.

 

We’re stuck in time – we cannot live except in what’s right now;

To dwell within the past or future, time will not allow.

So with each passing day life brings, I will seek somehow

To give my best with which I’m blessed – until time takes a bow!

 

The Great Resurrection Hoax

I still remember the knot in the pit of my 20-year-old stomach.1824065

My faith was being challenged, along with the notion that Jesus had actually risen from the dead.  And I didn’t have any answers that satisfied my challenger – or that satisfied me.  It seemed that the resurrection of Jesus was either the greatest hoax ever or the greatest single historical event ever.  And I needed to find out which one it was.

Here is some of what I uncovered, both from the Bible and from non-Biblical documents, that set my heart ablaze and gave my faith bedrock conviction:

1.  Roman guard – How could the team of Roman guards, for whom failure meant the death penalty, have let anyone steal the body?  And if the guards stole it, why didn’t they just produce it and kill the Christian faith before it ever got started?

2.  Large stone moved away – How did the 1½- to 2-ton stone in front of the tomb get rolled up hill?

3.  Empty tomb – Why would both Jewish and Roman sources admit to an empty tomb if they had not in fact verified that the tomb was empty?  And if they had the body, why didn’t they produce it and put an abrupt end to all this resurrection talk?

4.  Broken Roman seal – How was the Roman seal, which stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire, broken?  And if the FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire set out to catch those who were responsible, why did they come up empty-handed?

5.  Grave clothes – How did Jesus emerge from his grave clothes and from the 100-pound gummy substance that held the grave clothes together?  

6.  Over 500 witnesses – What do you say in the face of over 500 witnesses who claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus in bodily form on several different occasions?

7.  Martyred apostles – Perhaps most compelling, why would eleven of Jesus’ twelve apostles (excluding John who was exiled to the island of Patmos) all independently die a horrific death as a martyr for their faith in the risen Christ if they knew the resurrection was merely a hoax?

Assessing whether Jesus’ resurrection is hoax or history has greater impact than perhaps any other assessment one can make.  

For if Jesus rose from the dead, then He must be who He claimed to be.

     And if He is who He claimed to be, then He must be God.

          And if He is God, then His claim to be the exclusive way to salvation has validity.

               And if He is God, then He has authority over my life. 

What do you say?  Was the resurrection a hoax, or was it history?  Perhaps even more important, what are you going to do about it?

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (Well, Almost)

Divorce1What would you do if you learned that there is a common factor in marriages that reduces the divorce rate from about 50% to less than 0.1%, or one out of 1,152?  Does that grab your attention?  Does that make you want to apply it to your own marriage?

Many studies have shown that the divorce rate in the United States today is approximately 40% to 50%.  In other words, very close to one out of every two marriages in the U.S. today ends in divorce.Divorce2-1

What about marriages of people within the church?  Well, many of those same studies reveal that, very sadly, church-goers get divorced just about as frequently as everyone else in America.  Some studies reveal that this statistic depends of what kinds of Christians are being surveyed, and others provide possible explanations for such a high divorce rate.  But nevertheless, the sad statistic remains that the divorce rate within the church is very close to the divorce rate of the general public – almost one out of two.

However, a Gallup Poll that was conducted in 1997 by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement in Phoenix, Arizona revealed that the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152.  That’s a divorce rate of less than one-tenth of one percent.  

Praying together can bind two hearts together with the heart of God.  Praying together can lubricate the frictions of daily marital life much like oil lubricates the engine of a car.  Praying together can smooth away the rough edges and put problems into perspective.  Praying together can touch the heart of God and tap the power of God in your marriage and in your lives.

Does the idea of praying with your spouse intimidate you and make you a little uneasy?  If so, you are not alone!  Why not start small – choose two days of each week on which you will hold hands and each one offer a one- or two-sentence prayer.  Then maybe after a few weeks, you’ll be able to build on that foundation and grow in frequency and length of praying together. 

Certainly there may be extenuating circumstances for which praying together regularly will not preclude the prospect of divorce.  But in most cases, praying together regularly dramatically reduces your chances of divorce.

Why not give it a try this week?  Why not ask your spouse if they will pray with you on a regular basis?  Something that lowers the divorce rate from 50% to 0.1% sure gets my attention!  I hope it grabs yours as well.

A Prayer of Desperation

HELPHave you ever been in a place of utter helplessness, a place of complete desperation?  Have you ever totally reached the end of yourself? 

My time at grad school was rapidly coming to an end, and I was seeking a permanent, full-time job.  I had written to about a dozen engineering firms about three months earlier but with no positive responses.

Graduation was just a week or two away, and my wife of nine months, Mimi, was to begin grad school the following week.  I was about to become the only provider, but there were no jobs in sight.  Feeling very needy, I poured out my heart to God in prayer one evening for more than an hour.  I prayed in utter helplessness and desperation like never before.

The next morning, I decided to simply show up at the engineering firm in which I was most interested, located about an hour’s drive away in downtown Boston.  As I entered the front door to the office, having arrived uninvited, the receptionist knowingly asked me, “Are you Ken Wilson?”  After recomposing myself, I responded, “Yes.  But how did you know my name?”

“We called you about an hour ago,” she explained, “to ask if you might be interested in a job with us.  Your wife informed us that you were on your way here at that very moment!” 

The next day I interviewed with them, and the following day I had the job!

Regardless of whether answers to prayer come in amazing ways like this or they don’t come as I might hope, I can trust that God, in His infinite love and wisdom and power, is doing what is best – even if my limited brain can’t fully understand it.  I can trust in the God “who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

Too Amazing to Keep to Yourself

I’m a recovering evangelism coward.Too Amazing to Keep to Yourself

When I began my Christian walk about 40 years ago, the thought of evangelizing people was both terrifying and repulsive.  But God has transformed that fear into a passion and joy, and today I feel compelled to bring my friends to Christ (much like my lungs feel compelled to suck in oxygen).

However, there’s a great tension that I’ve felt – and maybe you’ve felt it as well.

On the one hand, we’ve come to know God personally, He’s died on the cross to purchase our salvation, and He gives us hope and purpose and meaning for this life, not to mention the assurance of eternal life with Him.  This Good News is truly too amazing to keep to ourselves!

However, on the other hand, we like our friends and we don’t want to alienate them or beat them over the head or offend them or feel rejected by them.  We want to honor and respect and keep our friends and treat them like we’d want to be treated.

My new book – Too Amazing to Keep to Yourself – was just published and released last month.  It addresses this tension straight on.  It is written to help people learn how to share their faith in a way that fits the unique way God has crafted and gifted them, in a way that is safe and non-threatening.  It presents the what, why, who, how, where, and when of personal evangelism.

Here’s some of what you’ll find:

  • A study guide at the end of each chapter provides questions and Bible references for small groups or for personal study.
  • One of twelve common obstacles to sharing our faith is featured with each chapter, along with practical suggestions for overcoming each obstacle.
  • Three sample gospel presentations are included to help the reader learn how to share their faith.

I hope you’ll consider checking it out!  (And I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

Nana and Gramps

My grandparents died several years ago, but they lived to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary.Nana and Gramps

Gramps was never a CEO nor amassed a great fortune.  Nana quietly raised two children and then took care of Gramps during her remaining years.  They owned an average house, drove average cars, and lived an average lifestyle.

But they can lay claim to something that is not very average and not very common.  They forged a lifelong commitment that took them from the Great Depression to NASDAQ, from swing music to hip-hop, from jalopies to minivans.

They did something that is worth more than all the big houses and fancy cars that money can buy, of greater value than any bank account that can be left behind, and more significant than any job title or career accomplishment.

They gave the world two wonderful children, they loved each other well, and they grew old together.

That is a legacy worth seeking!

Sex and God

Did you ever stop and consider how much faith it takes to believe that there is no God?  If there is no God, then all that we are, all that we have, and all that exists is purely random and coincidental.

We could take any number of realities in the universe – the intricacies of the atom, the grandeur of the galaxies, or the required combination of physical realities that enable life.  But let’s take a quick look at sex.  (How’s that for an attention-grabber?!)SexandGodtextbox2

Three very basic realities exist that enable propagation of the human race:

  1. All humans are born either female or male, and their physical bodies just happen to be perfectly complementary for merging with one another.
  2. Humans just happen to have a built-in urge to merge.  (And this merger has the potential for both delight and damage, for both pleasure and pain.  It is among the most powerful forces in the world, both for good and for bad.)
  3. This human merger just happens to be the means by which the life of a new human is started.

A statistics expert would tell us that the likelihood of any one of these three realities occurring by mere chance is miniscule.  However, the likelihood of all three of them occurring together by mere coincidence is exponentially miniscule.

Did these three realities really occur by chance, by mere coincidence?  Or do they intrinsically point to a Creator, to a Designer of all that is?

Who really has blind faith – the one who points to a Creator behind these wonderful realities or the one who says that it all came into being by pure randomness?

I must commend the faith of all my friends out there who say there is no God.  I love you, and I respect you.  I must say, however, that I don’t believe I have more faith than you.  In reality, to believe such a thing requires a far greater leap of faith than I could ever muster up.

Father of the Bride

I walked my daughter down the aisle last weekend. Although I’ve walked seven marathons in recent years, those walks didn’t seem nearly as daunting as this one.

DancingI informed the pastor that my wife, Mimi, and I are the ones who give this woman to this man. Then she made a promise to her bridegroom, she changed her name to his, and off they drove together at the end of an amazing and joyous day.

Here are a few remembrances, reflections, and lessons learned from a father of the bride with an overflowing heart:

  1. The many little things – like “House at Pooh Corner” at bedtime and walking the neighborhood loop with my two-year-old daughter in our backpack each evening – are sweeter memories than the many bigger things.
    backpack
  2. Intentional spiritual nurturing during her infancy, childhood, and tween years provided a solid foundation and deep roots for her teen years and early adult years.
  3. Monthly daddy dates and lots of fun together during her childhood years helped forge a daddy-daughter bond that survived the many eye rolls, one-word answers, and cold shoulders of the teen years.
  4. No amount of success at work or in any other area of life could have made up for a lack of success at home.
  5. However, some failures and flaws are inevitable (and I’ve had many), but God has redeemed and worked through my many weaknesses.
  6. Weekly family devotions were filled with lessons and laughter, but nurturing her in the Lord also needed to be built into the everydayness of our lives together.
  7. Allowing my daughter to teach me throughout the years not only made her more open to all that I wanted to teach her, but it also made me a much wiser man.
  8. Praying for her since her conception and praying and fasting for her each week was the greatest investment of my time and heart I could ever make.
  9. When she eventually needed to break away from her daddy, letting go and trusting God was both amazingly difficult and absolutely the best thing I could have done; and she came back in a wonderful way.
  10. It’s a wondrous thing when your daughter soars beyond your greatest hopes and dreams!

Giving my daughter all of my heart and energy and time and passion during the past 23 years made our one-minute walk down the aisle together a cause for joy and celebration, for reflection on God’s goodness, and for an overflowing heart in a grateful father of the bride!