Fans Set on High

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject,” quipped Winston Churchill, England’s beloved, wartime prime minister. Does his description bring anyone to mind, your neighbor, for instance, who knows exactly how many days remain until the OSU-Michigan game? Personally, I can’t help but think (and chuckle) about Forrest Gump’s friend, Bubba, and his all-consuming passion for shrimp! (“Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. . . .”1) Of course, none of us wants to be known as a fanatic, but almost all of us proudly proclaim ourselves to be a “fan” of something, even though “fan” is the shortened version of the word, “fanatic.” Abbreviate the word, and we’re good with it.

The historical book of Acts ends with the apostle Paul under house arrest, living alone under guard, yet still with singularity of purpose. “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”2 Though confined, Paul constrained neither his message, nor the fervor in which he shared it.

So what do you think? Is Paul “that guy” we warmly greet in church but coolly avoid in public? It would be easy to look at him or someone like him and think, “nut job,” “zealot,” or “fanatic.” But think about it for a moment—the only reason Paul talked nonstop about Jesus for two years is that people kept coming to see him for two years! If they stop seeking, he stops preaching, right? Yet something in him drew people to him, those looking for truth and the inner peace it brings.

The point is this: people are hungry for something in their lives, and that something is the truth and hope of the gospel. It is as Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until can they find peace in you.”3 So people keep searching. Then wouldn’t it be great if we lived today in such a way that people could see the hope that we have and experience for themselves the peace of Christ? Wouldn’t it be great if we lived today as fans?

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

[Read today’s Scripture in Acts 28:23-31.]

1 Tisch, Steve, Wendy Finerman, Robert Zemeckis, Eric Roth, Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field, and Winston Groom. 1995. Forrest Gump. [Hollywood, Calif.]: Paramount.
2 Acts 28:30, 31
3 Augustine, Saint Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, trans. Rex Warner. (New York: The New American Library, 1963), 17.

Fair Question?

When he was in the first grade, my brother had a crush on a little girl in his class. Alas, his was an unrequited love, the affections of his heart unreturned. So Eric appealed to the highest authority he knew, printing this impassioned note to the principal: “Dear Mrs. Martin, will you please make Erika Mustermann1 like me?” Nothing ever came of his valiant attempt, of course, except that Mrs. Martin, who was also our next-door neighbor, gave the letter to our mother.

As we grow from childhood into adulthood, our problems get bigger along with us—it’s part of the human experience. Loyalties are breached, promises are broken, and blame is shifted. Friendship is spurned, innocence is abused, and fortunes are stolen. We could go on to include sacrifices unappreciated, responsibility unaccepted, and efforts unrewarded. Then there are the troubles we bring upon ourselves by our own hasty decisions, poor decisions, or indecision. People wound us, and we wound them—a small microcosm of a global reality.

At points in our lives, then, we are tempted to doubt God or even blame Him for our manmade messes. “If God is so powerful and loving,” we ask, “why is there so much suffering in the world?” Is this a fair question? On the surface, it may seem so, but let’s look deeper. On one hand, our inner six-year-old boy wants God to make people be kind and loving. The “Erika Mustermann” in us, however, doesn’t want to be coerced into anything; we want the freedom to think, feel, say, and do as we please. Fortunately, our relational God does not rescind the human liberty with which He endowed us, so like Mrs. Martin, He doesn’t force our decisions, even though we often choose wrongly.

The real question each one of us must honestly consider is, “How does a brokenhearted God respond to such human suffering?” And I think the answer is this: He fills us, His people, with His Spirit, and He sends us to the hurting who await a glimmer of hope. It’s not just theory or philosophy; I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the octogenarian, who still visits inmates in solitary confinement. I’ve seen the woman who tends to the spiritual and physical needs of the trafficked, the gang members, and the penniless in her neighborhood. I’ve seen the retiree who tirelessly visits the sick and dying. You’ve seen it, too.

God cares about the pain and suffering in our world much more than we do, and while we sit around and question His love, power, or existence, for that matter, He is responding to a hurting humanity through those who go and serve them in His name. The question is not a matter of God’s love or His power, but our willingness to act in them. God, grant us the grace to decide rightly.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

1 The name has been changed to protect the completely unaware.

He Called His Shot

It was in the 1932 World Series that the all-time baseball great Babe Ruth stepped up to bat. Heckled and jeered by the “bench warmers” in the opposing Chicago Cubs’ dugout, he looked at them, then pointed toward the centerfield bleachers. Although it has never been confirmed, it is widely believed the Babe promised to deliver a home run that very moment. Then with two strikes against him, Ruth crushed the next pitch 440 feet deep into the centerfield seats. Many considered it to be the greatest home run of his legendary career.

One of the awesome characteristics of God is the fact that He calls his shots ahead of time. “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets,”1 proclaimed Amos, a prophet himself. How amazing—and how humbling—this Sovereign over all creation would love us so intimately as to confide in us about His plans and the things that are important to Him!

Of all the Old Testament Messianic prophecies—God shots called in advance—perhaps none describes the first “Holy Week” more clearly than Isaiah 52 and 53. In them, we see the suffering of the Christ who was yet to come: His rejection, disfigurement “beyond human likeness,” crucifixion (“piercing”)—our punishment. Here God also foretells the Messiah’s sacrificial death: His “slaughter,” being “cut off from the land of the living,” and His burial.

These are truly remarkable announcements of things to come 700 years later, yet God had still more to confide, pointing toward an event far beyond the vision of our imaginations: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “Though the Lord makes [the Messiah’s] life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days. . . . After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. . . . I will give him a portion among the great . . . because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.”

In the first Holy Week, God made good on His word in the person of Jesus Christ. And the new life to which He arose also flows to all who live in Him through faith, for through His suffering, death and resurrection, He would “justify many, and heal their iniquities. . . . He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” How do we know we will rise as He arose? Simple. God has always called his shots ahead of time, and God has always batted a thousand.

Happy Easter, everyone. Christ is risen!

Read Isaiah 52:13—53:12 and take heart at God’s word spoken through Isaiah, the prophet.

1 Amos 3:7