What Matters Most

During my freshman year of college, the January temperatures in central Ohio dropped low enough and long enough for a nearby pond to freeze over. Someone in the dorm came around recruiting for an afternoon of hockey. Let’s go! It felt so good to be back out on the ice, though skating and puck control on a pond were trickier than when playing on the smoother rink surfaces to which I was accustomed, for pond ice is almost always bumpier. It was also less reliable, I found, for at some point in the afternoon my right skate broke through the ice and plunged into the water beneath. I quickly pulled it out and continued to play a while longer, but not with the same level of confidence, for the ice had proved itself unworthy of my trust.

Sometimes we hear people say it doesn’t matter what we believe, as long as we believe in “something.” Some decree all religions lead to God, that they all believe in essentially the same things. But this is simply not compatible with Biblical teaching. Early in His earthly ministry, Jesus explained, “Whoever believes in [the Son of God] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”1 And the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus assured His disciples with this exclusive truth-claim: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”2 Where we place our faith truly matters.

It was a different winter, this time near my hometown in northern Michigan. Lake Huron was ice covered, and I decided to walk out on it. The further I ventured out, the darker the ice appeared—the lake was getting deeper and the ice becoming thinner. I was somewhat wary, yet adventuresome, so I continued until at some point I thought I had gone farther than I should and it would be best to turn around and head back toward land. Though by now I had become anxious of my situation, the ice proved itself strong enough to hold me above the depths below and return me safely to shore.

Which matters more—the size of our faith, or the object of our faith? It is the latter. Misplaced confidence, no matter how bold, will always let us down; but even shaky faith in the unshakable Savior is faith well placed. In Him we are safe.

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

Father, thank You for loving us enough to save us. Grace us not to doubt, but to place our faith in Your Son, for life is found in Him alone. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 John 3:18
2 John 14:6


No Sin Too Great

The prisoner’s body language told his story as no words could convey—his shoulders hunched as if perpetually bearing the weight of guilt and his face indelibly etched in constant grief. The solitary lockdown of “Jason’s” soul seemed far more isolating than his confinement behind rolled-steel bars and razor wire fences. The only reason Jason did not take his own life, he would say later, was that he needed to suffer for his offense. Yet when Jason entered the room on the fourth and final day of our Kairos Prison Ministry weekend, his face glowed—his eyes sparkled and a broad smile of relief radiated peace and joy from within. We were stunned.

We all regret our wrongs; we should. They’re real, and they are serious before a just and holy God. The fact that our sins have not landed us in jail make them no less egregious than if they had. It was Paul, that great apostle to the Gentiles, who confessed, “I am the worst [sinner] of them all.”1 His were not gratuitous words of false humility, for this self-proclaimed “wretched man”2 knew the depth of his sin. Yet he knew also the mercy of God and the power of the gospel: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”3

Saturdays on a Kairos weekend focus on forgiving self, forgiving others, and receiving forgiveness from God. We consider His promises, such as this from Isaiah, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow …”4 and again from John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”5 No wrong we have committed can exceed the height of God’s love for us; no offense runs deeper than His grace. And as Saturday drew to a close, Jason received this forgiveness. “This morning when I looked in the mirror,” he told us the next day, “for the first time in nineteen years I liked what I saw.” For he saw what God saw: a forgiven man made new—his sins gone, and his burden lifted. I’ve seen Jason many times over the ensuing years, and his face still glows as a testimony to the freedom of forgiveness over the captivity of sin.

If God forgave “the worst sinner of them all,” He will forgive you, too. Dare to trust Him; dare to believe. Then let your story shine.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12).

Father, thank You for sending Jesus to take my sins upon Himself. I am eternally grateful. Grace me to shine as one rescued from death unto life. Be glorified in me. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 1 Timothy 1:15 NLT
2 Romans 7:24
3 Romans 8:1
4 Isaiah 1:18
5 1 John 1:19


The Plunge

During his college years, my brother Eric worked summers as a lifeguard and swim instructor at our city beach on Lake Huron. Swim lessons had their predictable pattern—young children overcoming their fear of the water and gradually learning to float and then, finally, to swim. Except for Bert. As his classmates grew in confidence, Bert held back in fear. On the last day of the class, Eric said, “Bert, you’re going to learn to swim today, whether you like it or not, and you’re not getting out of the water until you like it.” Bert tried hurriedly to wade away, but Eric picked up his reluctant student and heaved him into deeper water. Bert thrashed around a bit and then, putting together everything he’d heretofore learned but not trusted, he made his way to safety. Bert learned to swim that day. And he liked it.

For some of us, the thought of entrusting our life to Jesus’ atoning work on the cross can be frightening. I speak from experience, for there was a time when I saw many of my friends and acquaintances come to faith in Christ and rejoicing in new life in Him. Though I wanted for myself the kind of peace, joy, and confidence burgeoning from within them, and though I deeply desired a close relationship with God, I was too terrified to trust in His plan of salvation. What if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was and my faith were to be misplaced? What judgement would await me? Every new objection, challenge and doubt sent me scurrying in fear, not to any plausible alternative, but to the “safety” of indecision and noncommitment. Over time, I found myself sinking while believers were swimming. Their lives bore witness to the life of Christ in them, and if anything, I was drifting in the wrong direction. By God’s grace, His Spirit stirred in me again, and this time I said “yes” to Christ Jesus. I learned to trust that day. And I liked it.

Forty-something years later, we still chuckle at the story of Bert. And I have to wonder, did Bert’s sink-or-swim encounter that one day ever serve to save his life? Mine did. The same is true for all who take the plunge—all who, in faith, entrust their life to Christ.

The Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:7-8)

Father, thank You for Your gift of salvation through Christ Jesus. Your prophets foretold Him, His disciples suffered for Him, and Your Spirit still bears witness to Him in and through Your people. Strengthen me to entrust my life entirely to Him today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.