To my dearest children, grandchildren and great-grandkids,
Today, March 13, 2057, I turn the ripe old age of one hundred. The year 1957 was a good year for Chevys. It’s hard to believe Chevy has gone the way of Studebaker and Saturn. So much has changed since I took my first breath, and yet so much is still the same.
I know my body is old and tattered, or as my precious Abigail used to say, “Grandpa is wrinkly!” I know my mind is not what it once was, and I tend to ramble on about life in the twentieth century.
I know . . .
But the technological changes I’ve seen are truly astounding. When I was born, back in the dark ages, the average American family had only one TV and it was black and white with very limited channel options. Our landline telephones were often party lines shared with the neighbors down the street. Cars were powerful and big, and gas was cheap (we paid about twenty-five cents a gallon, not twenty-five dollars!). There were no cell phones, let alone telecommunication audio implants and interactive 4-D movies weren’t even around.
I’m still baffled by the sociological changes I’ve seen in our culture. Once upon a time, marriage was between one man and one woman and expected to last a lifetime. However, once society entered the slippery slope of redefining the biblical definition of marriage, it was only a matter of time before we ended up where we are now.
I can imagine what some of you are thinking, “Gramps, things change, and it’s no big deal!” I probably said the same thing to my grandparents. Granted, the only thing that doesn’t change is something that’s dead!
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m grateful for all of the medical advances made in my lifetime. I would have passed away a long time ago without my new cloned heart. My old eyes see better now with my ocular implants than they did in my forties with trifocals.
Certainly, some changes are good, but some are not, and that’s why I want to leave you with some things to ponder.
To begin with, although the world has changed dramatically, much has and always will be the same. For example, people are lost without Jesus. True before. True now.
I can’t precisely remember when it became politically incorrect to call lost people “lost,” but somewhere along the way, Christians became less offensive and more endearing to society because we compromised one essential truth after another. In our effort to reach people, our message became fuzzy and the lines blurred.
It has become trendy to say, “People aren’t ‘lost’ or ‘sinners,’ but wayward souls simply in need of self-direction.”
We hear from the supposedly enlightened, “Sinful life choices are no longer a matter of right versus wrong, but unavoidable results of one’s environment or genetic makeup. It’s not their fault, so there is no fault.”
In our society, absolutes are absolutely intolerable (despite the projected value of tolerance for all).
The problem with this line of thought is it removes mankind of its responsibility for sin (the new “S” word), or it’s need for a Savior. They say, “It is what it is, and everything is relative.”
Why then did Jesus say he came to “seek and to save the lost”? Why did God send his son to die for our sins if sin isn’t that big of deal? Why did the apostle, Paul, describe our condition as “disobedience, deception, and enslavery to sin” if everything is truly okay and relative?
For thousands of years, the message of the cross has been simple: We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. Our root problem isn’t a bad environment or an unavoidable genetic disposition; our root problem is sin. We are indeed lost without the Savior Jesus.
Some of you know my lifelong friend, Randy. He was brought up Lutheran and once considered himself a man of faith. However, his years in college changed him. His doubts about God, Christianity, sin and salvation led him to the Universalist path that proclaims, “All roads lead to God.”
This view of spirituality has become increasing popular in our culture. Why wouldn’t it? If everybody is right and nobody is wrong then everybody is happy! Unfortunately, some brothers and sisters of the faith have embraced this heresy.
The truth is everybody can’t be right, and somebody is wrong. It’s illogical to assume opposing truths are all correct. Jesus boldly declared he was “the way, the truth, and the life” and the only way to true relationship with the Father. He was extremely clear on this issue.
No one can accept Jesus as God while denying there is a God! It’s horribly inconsistent to claim we are saved by grace (i.e. God’s underserved mercy and favor) and then believe that reincarnation gives you another shot at getting good enough for heaven!
When there are vastly different views of God, salvation, heaven and hell, somebody’s got it right and everybody else is in error. A five-year-old can tell you there’s a right and wrong.
No matter how someone attempts to dance around it, Jesus was clear and exclusive, not inclusive. By the way, that’s not intolerance, that’s truth, and it’s truth that sets us free! Just because a truth is unpopular does not make it any less a truth.
A thousand times I have prayed for you, my dear family, “Father, show them the depth of their depravity and sin, and the depth of your mercy and grace. Remove from my kids and grandkids the cultural blinders that try to convince them of their worth apart from Christ. Lead them to the cross.”
I am what I am because of who I belong to, not because of what I am or what I’ve done.
The epic adventure your grandfather has experienced is not because I’m special, but because Jesus is special to me.
Forgive me for rambling, so I’ll move to something else forgotten by many: It will cost you everything to follow Jesus.
You’ve heard me say it thousands of times, “Grace is free for the taking, but it will cost you everything.” We could never earn our own righteousness. We could never be good enough to be good enough for heaven. Every good thing in me is the result of the goodness of God toward me. And every good thing I do for God is in response to his grace and kindness, not in some foolish attempt to acquire something I already have through him.
Some of you will roll your eyes right now as you read these words I have spoken time and time again, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than he already does!”
Almost fifty years ago, a friend locked these words in my heart, “God’s not mad at you, he’s mad about you!” Once we understand God’s grace and love, it deeply changes our hearts, but it also profoundly changes the way we live.
I don’t do what I do to earn God’s favor. I don’t avoid some things in terror of his wrath. But everything in my life is measured by this powerful axiom: I live to honor what Jesus has done for me.
Grandma and I have stood in the face of trial after trial without bitterness because we know the great trials Jesus faced for us. We have faithfully served others and sacrificed countless hours not to make God smile, but because we already have his smile. We have given much because we are loved much. We have accomplished a lot for the Kingdom not because we had to, but because we wanted to do so.
One of my greatest concerns for the current generation is their lack of understanding regarding selfless sacrifice. They grew up with an entitlement mentality and a false belief that they deserve an easy life of material abundance.
I thought we might experience a spiritual awakening after the great depression of 2020. I had hoped our nation would finally turn to God in desperation when the paper tiger of debt imploded in our country and around the globe.
I was sure that the great war of 2041 would break our stubborn pride and reconnect our country to the Christian values upon which we were founded. Tragically, the loss of so many people only scarred our souls with a deeper, “What’s in it for me?” philosophy of life.
Let me remind you, the way of the cross is radically different.
Jesus said, “. . . those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Grace is free, but it cost Jesus everything. The gift of salvation is free, but it will cost us everything to follow Jesus. Of course, we can’t earn it, but the response of any heart truly changed by grace is to willingly take up our cross to follow the path of Christ toward selflessness and sacrifice. It’s what love does.
I hope by now you know the secret to living the “abundant life” Jesus promised is not found in the pursuit of abundance! It is found on that narrow path and the hard road of dying to ourselves. It is discovered as we take up the towel of a servant and humbly wash the stench of this world from the feet of those whom we love more than we love ourselves.
Death to life. Slavery to freedom. This is our call and challenge as followers of the Way, and it will cost you.
Someday very soon, I will join that great cloud of witnesses and I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines of heaven. It’s okay to weep for your loss, but remember my great gain. I’ll be with Jesus and waiting for you, so don’t disappoint me by not showing up!
If you’ve learned anything from my past, if you’ve ever been encouraged by my faith, and if you’ve ever wondered, “What does God have in store for me?” then make my joy complete by living on purpose for something and Someone greater than yourself. Life in Christ is epic!
I have always believed in you and you are always loved,
P.S. Tell my boys not to leave my ashes on a shelf in the garage for twelve years like I did to their grandfather. 🙂
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18