Built To Last

“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to!”

Have you ever heard that phrase before? It’s usually said by a weary homeowner who has just gone through the process of replacing something expensive. Recently, I was having this exact conversation with someone who was frustratedly telling me about how companies used to guarantee their products, sometimes even for life. Refrigerators, dishwashers, heaters, and so on, all of these at one point would last for double-digit years at the minimum. Now, expect to replace those items in half that time or less. Our conversation left me pondering why. Why aren’t things built to last anymore?

A few months ago, when I was on the Greek Island of Lesvos (read why here) I saw one of the most magnificent sights I’ve seen. I have been blessed to travel to many places. I have seen incredible natural wonders and impressive manmade structures. But this. This took my breath away.

There, seemingly untouched by tourists, in the middle of an olive grove, accessible only by a footpath or a half-a-car sized dirt road was the sign the simply read, Roman Aqueduct.

I quickly snapped the picture shown above and then just as quickly put my phone away to just simply soak it all in.

The structure stands an impressive 600 meters tall (1969 feet) and was built in the late 2nd century. In its day it would carry 127,000 cubic meters of water a distance of 22 kilometers each day. While it certainly isn’t functioning today and is only a remnant of what it once was I couldn’t help but think, “now that was built to last.”

If that was built to last, then why isn’t my refrigerator?! The answer is sadly simple. That’s not a good business model. Many companies have gone under with the business model of “built to last.”

In our consumeristic culture where newer is always better and materials and production are dirt cheap, it makes no sense to build something that will last a long time. A disgruntled and yet repeat customer is preferred over a happy but one-time customer.

That’s a problem, but here is the greater problem…we have come to accept it. We have come to realize that doing repairs just isn’t worth the work when it is easier, and often cheaper, to go get a replacement.

And I’m not only talking about refrigerators anymore.

This thinking has crept into our mindsets concerning our relationships, faith in God, and how we view the churches we attend.

“Why fix it? Just walk away. Go find someone new. Go worship somewhere else. Go follow a God that doesn’t require quite as much from you.” These are the things that we are up against.

Nothing seems built to last anymore.

Please understand, I am not advocating against change. Change is a good and necessary part of all life. But I am advocating for a renewed commitment to the people in our lives, the churches we go to, and the God we follow.

Let’s build our relationships to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t cash in for a new model. Fix what is broken. Work together to find reconciliation and honor God together.

Let’s build our churches to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t cash in for a church that will meet your consumer needs better. Ask God to use you to fix what is broken. Work together to share Jesus’ love and to make His name great.

Let’s build our faith to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t settle for a cheaper version of grace. Ask God to fix what is broken in you. Trust in Him and do not lean on your own understanding.

There is only one cornerstone, only one solid rock. The only things that we can build to last are the things built upon Jesus.

Matthew 7:24-27

Counting the Cost

Free coffee!

I saw the ad and immediately was intrigued. The flyer promised free coffee shipped to your house, all you had to do was pay $1 for shipping.

I went to the company’s website to get my free coffee, and I was pleased to see no hidden fees. I searched the site and was confident that all I was signing up for was free coffee with $1 shipping. A few days later I got my free coffee and was proud of myself for finding a good deal.

The problem came when I failed to check my email.

You see, in fine print (even though I thought I had checked that) the company informed me that an email would be sent to me and that unless I “opted out” I would then be signed up for a monthly coffee program. I didn’t know this until a box arrived at my door.

$75 worth of coffee.

I like love coffee. But I was unprepared to pay $75! Especially because that was certainly not what I had thought I signed up for. I was unready and unwilling to count the cost.

There are many things in life in which we must “count the cost.” If you want to be physically fit, you must work out and eat healthily. If you want to have a family, be prepared to say goodbye to sleep. If you want to do well at your job, show initiative and work hard. If you want to follow Jesus, be prepared to give up everything.

But here is the problem, like me and my coffee fiasco, many people are unaware of what it truly means to follow Jesus, and unfortunately, too many are unwilling to count the cost.

Unlike the coffee company, however, Jesus has no hidden fees. He is very clear on what it means to follow Him as well as all the potential risks involved.

In Luke 14 Jesus proclaims, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In Luke 9:23 Jesus calls for His followers to deny themselves and take up their crosses. Galatians 5:24 reminds us that true followers of Jesus are those that have crucified their own passions and desires. And Matthew 7:13-14 says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Jesus offers hope, life, love, grace, and mercy. This is good news, but we cannot expect to take all that Jesus offers and remain unchanged by it. Jesus changes us.

If we claim to follow Jesus, but our lives look exactly the same as they did when we were not following Him then something is very very wrong.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Following Jesus transforms us.

And as believers, we have a responsibility to share this truth. For far too long Christians have tried to “sugar coat” the Gospel message. For far too long people have tried to hide the costs of following Jesus. With messages like, “Jesus loves you just as you are, come let Him be a part of your life and watch how He will make it better. No pressure, no risk, no obligations.” This message may sound good, but it sounds far different from what Jesus Himself said.

That kind of sales pitch is pathetic and unworthy of our Savior. The fact is that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. The relationship between us and God has been broken and it is our fault. God graciously sent Jesus to restore that relationship. He offers life to anyone who would believe, but we must leave our old ways behind and be willing to give up everything for Him. Anything short of that is convenient and consumeristic “Christianity” and I want no part of that.

Is following Jesus easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

Will you have to give up everything to follow Him? Maybe not. But must you be willing? Absolutely, because He gave up everything to save you.

Pass The Ball

A few days ago, the sports world was rocked with the awful news that 9 people had died in a helicopter crash. The victims were girls’ basketball coaches, mothers, fathers, a pilot, and teenage girls. Among them was soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer- Kobe Bryant.

As I reflected on these tragic events, I was reminded of something I wrote back in 2018 that I have found eerily relevant for today. Feel free to check it out here: Life and Basketball.

Kobe played in the NBA for 20 years and through those 2 decades, I can remember cheering both for and against him. His incredible skill matched with his relentless work ethic helped form him into one of the best to ever play.

But Kobe was not perfect. Off the court, he had legal issues that put a strain on his family. While, on the court, he often would feud with teammates and, especially in the first half of his career, was known for being incredibly arrogant. However, despite those imperfections, Kobe worked hard to mature as a person and a basketball player. He worked to repair the damage done to his family and now is remembered as a loving husband and father who championed the efforts of female athletes. In the basketball world, he became a mentor to many young players and worked to repair broken relationships with old teammates. He went from a “punk kid” straight out of high school who made many mistakes, to an elder statesman of basketball and a good role model to many.

His journey to maturity is inspiring and should be seen as a wonderful example.

While reflecting on the recent tragic events I found myself, like many, watching videos of Kobe highlights. I found myself watching portions of his final NBA game where he scored an incredible 60 points. It was the most “Kobe” game I could think of. He took 50 shots, rarely passed the ball, (in fairness because others simply wanted to see him score) and was the hero in crunch time sinking 2 free throws to put the game out of reach and secure the win.

But the thing that struck me the most from his whole performance wasn’t the shooting or the slick moves. It was his final stat recorded as an NBA player.

An assist.

Kobe Bryant’s final act as an NBA player was to pass the ball.

Wow. Incredible. First, that’s incredible because he was not necessarily known for sharing the ball. Secondly, and more importantly, it was symbolic.

In the final seconds of the game Number 24 collected a rebound and then made a beautiful near-full court pass to a young player second-year player who then threw down a flashy dunk.

Kobe had passed the torch.

In life, torch-passing is an essential need. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to teach, mentor, and pour into those that are younger than us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we are teaching, training, listening to, supporting, and championing younger generations.

There are numerous examples of this found in the Bible. Moses trained Joshua. Elijah taught Elisha. Paul mentored and supported Timothy. In each of these cases are excellent examples of experienced followers of God pouring into younger believers for the good of God’s people.

The Bible also commands parents to raise their kids to know and love God and His Word. (Proverbs 22:6) As well as to share with children all of the wonderful things that God has done. (Joshua 4:6-7)

The church of Jesus Christ needs to invest in younger people. You need to invest in younger people. I need to invest in younger people.

I have talked about the issues of being “Too Young For Church” as well as “Too Old For Church” in the past. Feel free to give those a read.

But the point is, if we are going to reach more people with the Good life-giving news of Jesus, both now and in the future, then we need to be including people younger than ourselves.

It’s all for the glory of our God and the good of our team.

If Kobe could pass the ball, so can you.

Trouble In Paradise

In October I was blessed to be able to travel to Greece. In the weeks leading up to the trip each time I told someone my destination their reaction was always the same, “oooh how nice!!” And my response was typically a half-smile accompanied by the word “well.”

You see I didn’t go to sit on a beach and work on my sunburn. I went to talk to people. I went to share hope in a hopeless place. I went to share about Jesus and His love.

The island I spent most of the time on was the Island of Lesvos situated just 4 miles from the coast of Turkey. Lesvos is home to an infamous refugee camp named Moria, a camp built for 2,500 people. When I went in October there were more than 13,000 people living in Moria and the surrounding hilly olive grove. As of my writing this my sources in the camp tell me that the number of individual souls, people with real stories, real names, real dreams, is now at an unfathomable 20,000.

One thing, of many, that stuck with me was the incredible contrast that I saw there on the island. If you were to look around and only see 95% of the island you would see an absolute paradise. The sea was clear and beautiful. The olives were plump and picturesque. The sky was clear, and the weather was neither too hot nor too cold. It was beautiful.

And then there was the camp.

The sights, the sounds, the smells. The fear, the pain, the hopelessness.

It serves as a picture of our world. There are great and wonderful beauties, and yet in the same world, there are great and terrible evils.

I am finding that writing this post is a lot harder than I had anticipated. The memories of my time in the camp, the people that I met, and the conversations that I had are all flooding back, and it is truly overwhelming. I will, in time, share more of those stories.

But for now, I have a simple message. Jesus loves.

Jesus loves the half-naked child that I saw playing with a rusty nail and splintered wood next to excrement.

Jesus loves the mother of 5 little ones who stands in line every day for hours upon hours in order to feed her family.

Jesus loves the father who told me his arms were sore from holding his sleeping children above his chest all night so that they didn’t get wet in their flooded tent.

Jesus loves the orphan kid who tried to steal water.

Jesus loves the two grandmothers who got in a fistfight over a piece of cardboard they intended to sleep on.

Jesus loves the 12-year-old who told me he can’t remember life before they left home.

Jesus loves the girl who put his trust in Him and was secretly baptized.

Jesus loves the wealthy person reading this on their phone, tablet, or computer.

Jesus loves the sinner saved by grace who is writing.

There is good news in the midst of all of this. God has a habit of using terrible circumstances for His glory and our good.

Pray that the Good News of the Gospel would shine bright in this darkness. And be willing to be used by God in whatever way He would choose.

Matthew 25:31-46