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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.

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A Sixth Love Language

You’ve heard of the five love languages; I believe there is a sixth. Since first publishing his enduring work, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, author Gary Chapman has raised our awareness to the various ways in which people most deeply and openly receive love. Some of us embrace words of affirmation, while others cherish quality time. There are those among us who experience love through receiving gifts, and still others are moved through acts of service, an intangible kind of gift. And some people feel most loved through physical touch. (Mine are quality time and words of affirmation. No doubt, you have yours, too.) Yet I mentioned a sixth love language, one that I believe belongs to God alone—faith.

Have you ever noticed faith warms God to the core and stirs Him to action? How are we saved from eternal separation from God and united with Him forever? Simply by entrusting our lives to the loving and atoning work of His Son.1 When the daughter of Jairus died, what did Jesus say to this grieving synagogue ruler? “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”2 Who makes up the “great cloud of witnesses”3 that surrounds us, but those who have gone on before us, all of them united by one common trait: faith. With no faith at all it is impossible to please God4, yet even faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to move the God of all creation to respond to us in great power.5

Why does God treasure and esteem faith so highly? We would have to know His mind to understand completely, but we can be certain of this: faith aligns us with what is true—that God is good, that He is worthy of our trust, and that at great cost and in great love He has made us His own. Faith confesses both the unfathomable darkness of the sin from which God saved us and the unblemished purity of God’s holiness to which He has raised us; these together drop us to our knees in humility and praise. In short, faith squares us with reality. So then why is faith such a challenge for us? Why is faith so hard? We’ll be returning to the topic of faith over the weeks and months to come, exploring what faith is, exposing some challenges we encounter along the way, and considering the life lived by faith. For now, though, we rest in this: whether God proclaims His love for us in five languages or a thousand, we return His blessings in a tongue He loves to hear—the love language of faith.

Father, thank You for Your gift of faith. Fill us with Your Spirit and find us to be good stewards of this gift, that it would grow in us and flow from us, bearing much fruit for Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 John 3:16
2 Luke 8:50
3 Hebrews 12:1
4 Hebrews 11:6
5 Matthew 17:20

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Fingerprints

In my professional career, I was honored to lead a sizable division in a publicly traded company. We had a highly capable staff, and together with the disciplined execution of our regional office partners, we established a strong pattern of profitable growth. Over time, I found great satisfaction in all the meaningful change we engendered—product evolution, pricing sophistication, and stronger management tools, to name a few. All of these and other changes testified as proof of our presence—fingerprints of impact and success. It was both gratifying and humbling at the same time.

How much greater, then, are the fingerprints God leaves on our lives! Can you see the changes in yourself, the proof of His presence in you? King David did. “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,” he wrote, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”1 His was a living testimony of God’s transformational love, something God does not just in Biblical giants like David, but to all who are born of the Spirit through faith in Christ. The apostle Paul assured the everyday folks in Philippi, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”2 So then, what good work has God begun in you? Stop and think about it; don’t focus on the setbacks and discouragements along the way—we all have them—but try to recount ways God has changed your life into the image of His Son. Jot down what comes to mind, and think about it as a testimony to His faithfulness.

I’ve been retired for seven years, and I’m quite sure many of the advances we implemented are now obsolete and that other developments are but foundations of subsequent iterations of improvement. But God’s work in our lives is never obsolete; in fact, it points to a day when “we shall be like {Christ], for we shall see him as he is.”3 His fingerprints are on us, for His presence is in us, and His image awaits us. How gratifying! How humbling.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24 ESV

1 Psalm 73:21-24
2 Philippians 1:6 ESV
3 1 John 3:2