Grace and Monsters

“Amazing grace!

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

We’ve heard it.

Sang it.

Maybe even wept to it.

But do we really believe it?

Oh, sure most of us know the backstory behind arguably the most beloved hymn of all time.

John Newton, a former slave trader, wrote it to describe his own personal encounter with God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

So when we thnk about the level of wretchedness that God’s grace is able to reach, we tend to agree that forgiving slavers isn’t beyond the pale.

But when that ante gets upped, when we start talking about perpetrators of atrocities on a massive scale, the reality of God’s love becomes  harder to imagine.

Would turning to Jesus bring forgiveness to a Nazi prison guard?

Or a true believer in Communism who was a key player in the massacre of over 2 million people in Cambodia we know today as “The Killing Fields”?

This searing question has found its way to the front page today.

‘Killing Fields’ torturer on trial in Cambodia

Image: Kaing Guek Eav

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – A notorious torture center boss went before Cambodia’s genocide tribunal Tuesday for its first trial over the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime more than three decades ago.Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Duch, who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh — is charged with crimes against humanity, and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the U.N.-assisted tribunal.

Duch, a 66-year-old born-again Christian, is accused of committing or abetting a range of crimes including murder, torture and rape at the former school, where up to 16,000 men, women and children were held and tortured before being put to death.

Did you catch the key descriptive phrase?

“Born again Christian”.

In fact, it was Duch’s changed life that eventually lead to his capture.

According to reports he was working as a teacher with a Christian relief organization when he was tracked down by a British journalist in 1999.

And here we see the disconcerting contrasts.

Duch has been variously described by those who knew him as “very gentle and kind” and a “monster.”

“Duch necessarily decided how long a prisoner would live, since he ordered their execution based on a personal determination of whether a prisoner had fully confessed” to being an enemy of the regime, the tribunal said in an indictment in August.

In one mass execution, he gave his men a “kill them all” order to dispose of a group of prisoners. On another list of 29 prisoners, he told his henchmen to “interrogate four persons, kill the rest.”

So here lies the question.

Can someone whose hands are covered with the blood of thousands actually have a genuine encounter with God?

Consider the testimony of another “true believer” with his own share of blood on his hands.

You might know him as the apostle Paul.

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (I Corinthians 15:9-10)

Paul made no bones about the fact that he had done tremendous damage to God’s people.

In fact, it was likely that during his ministry he would have encountered fellow believers in Jesus who bore the scars Paul inflicted on them in his previous life.

He may have even met those who lost loved ones at his hand.

God reaching unlikely people to be exhibit “A” of His power to change lives is nothing new.

But how do we know when someone has really been touched by God and is not just using faith as a way to avoid the consequences of their dark and shameful past?

How do we know if, for instance, Duch is a brother in Christ or a cleverly camouflaged monster?

The proof is in the fruit.

And although he has yet to speak at his tribunal, Duch made a telling statement to those who suffered at his hands.

Taken to the scene of his alleged crimes last year, he wept and told some of his former victims, “I ask for your forgiveness. I know that you cannot forgive me, but I ask you to leave me the hope that you might.”

Is the love of Jesus sufficient enough to reach, forgive and change a man like Kaing Guek Eav?


And this is where the message of forgiveness in Jesus rubs the proud and self righteous the wrong way.

“So all it takes for a mass murderer to go to heaven is to be sorry and pray a little prayer? Well, if people like Kaing Guek Eav are going to be in your heaven, I wouldn’t want to go there!”

But here’s where we miss the point.

It’s not being sorry, crying a few tears or saying a little prayer that gets us to heaven.

It is the fact that Jesus was willing to die in our place on a cruel Roman cross that gets us to heaven.

He bore the punishment due us for all of our sins, big and small.

Because God knows that if we fall short of heaven by 6,000 miles or six inches we’ve still fallen short.

And so we need to know that Jesus didn’t die for the nice people who just needed a little help from the “man upstairs”.

He died for all of us, each and every one of us,  when we were at our worst.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

So there is hope for the Kaing Guek Eav’s of this world.

And if there is hope for a man like Duch, there is hope for all of us.

A man very much like Duch offers us this personal testimony.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:15-17)


Welcome to the Epicenter

One of the downsides of living in the information age is that not all of the sources we can access are reliable.

This is never more true than when the subject of discussion is the return of Jesus Christ.

I will never forget tuning into a program that breathlessly told its listeners that the Antichrist had set up his north American HQ in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Kind of like that awful impulse to slow down and see the aftermath of a car wreck, I had to stay tuned and listen.

Why Indianapolis?

The host confidently told us that “Diana” was the name of a pagan goddess.

“Polis” was the Greek word for “city”.

Indianapolis, then was the city that was “In- Diana”.

So since the city was “In Diana”, it proved that this would be the place that the idolatrous worship of the Antichrist would be established.

The host kept saying, “It’s In Diana – get it? Get it?”

Oh, I got it.

And before they went on to tell me where I could purchase what they called “Flee-Gold” at competitive prices, I changed the channel.

It’s no surprise that when a message as crucial to understand as Jesus’ promised return is being broadcast there might be a bit of static on the line.

And we are seeing an incredible upheaval of distortion in this area of doctrine.

On the one side there are so called ministries whose message is barely different from the headlines of a grocery store check out line tabloid.

On the other side, on my vacation I saw a car driving around with a crudely painted sign that declared “We are not living in the last days!”

Where can we turn for the truth?

Without the static.

Without the sensationalism.

Shared in away that not only presents Biblical reality concerning the retun of Christ, but also allows us to put this “blessed hope” into practical application in our lives?

Consider this alternative:


April 4th in San Diego

April 4th in San Diego

It’s shaping up to be a dramatic week. On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu will become Israel’s next Prime Minister. Also on Tuesday, the U.S. and Iran begin direct talks in the Netherlands for the first time since the Shah of Iran was ousted from power in 1979. Meanwhile, the G20 Summit of world leaders begins in London on Thursday to discuss radical reconstructive surgery to the international financial system, including the Russian and Chinese proposal of creating a new, single, common global currency.

We’ll consider the significance of these and other developments and trends at the 2009 Epicenter Conference on Saturday, April 4th at Cox Arena in San Diego. Last April, we held the premiere Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem for some 2,000 Christian leaders from all over the world. This year, we are expecting upwards of 8,000 or more attendees.

The theme will be: “Understanding Today’s Global Crises In Light of Bible Prophecy.” Key speakers include Lt-General (ret.) Jerry Boykin discussing the most serious threats facing the U.S., Israel and our allies in 2009; Pastor Chuck Smith discussing God’s everlasting love for Israel and Ezekiel’s prophecies concerning the “War of Gog and Magog”; and several special guests. I will be speaking on the global economic crisis, Inside The Revolution, as well as on “The State of the Epicenter.” We’ll also be talking about the work of The Joshua Fund and how you can be involved in blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.

Our church, Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson, will be one of forty across the nation that will be video extension campuses  supporting this event.

If you are in Southeastern Arizona we would welcome you to join us this Saturday for the conference. Just click this link for more information and directions.

If two or more agree in prayer will that guarantee an answer?

Click Here for the answer!

Space Storms and the Second Coming?

It used to be when you wanted to get scared by a prediction of Doomsday you had to go down town and look up the crazy guy with an “The End Is Near” sandwich sign.


You can save time and gas by simply checking out the latest findings of the scientific community.

To whit:

Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe

A fierce solar storm could lead to a global disaster on an unprecedented scale (Image: SOHO Consortium / ESA / NASA)

A fierce solar storm could lead to a global disaster on an unprecedented scale (Image: SOHO Consortium / ESA / NASA)

IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation’s infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event – a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn’t create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.

Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.

The projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. “We’re moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster,” says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.

It is hard to conceive of the sun wiping out a large amount of our hard-earned progress. Nevertheless, it is possible. The surface of the sun is a roiling mass of plasma – charged high-energy particles – some of which escape the surface and travel through space as the solar wind. From time to time, that wind carries a billion-tonne glob of plasma, a fireball known as a coronal mass ejection (see “When hell comes to Earth”). If one should hit the Earth’s magnetic shield, the result could be truly devastating.

The article goes on to describe the fall out from a globally fried electrical grid.

Everything from transportation, food and water accessibility, even basic health care as we know it, gone with only 90 seconds of warning due to a solar upheaval.

Apparently Old Sol has thrown a minor version of such a cosmic temper tantrum before.

Back in 1859 an astronomer named Richard Carrington noted an intense burst of white light from a patch of sun spots.  For the next eight days the Aurora Borealis was seen as far south as the equator. Wire to wire telegraph stations were thrown off the air and magnetic measuring devices were driven off the scale.

This incident known as the Carrington Event would have an immensely greater impact on our wired in culture today.

Imagine everything that uses electricity rendered useless, not just for eight days.

The article goes on to point out that the time required for the manufacture and re-installment of transformers would render us powerless for around eight years.

Back to the dark ages in the twinkling of an eye.

The essential message of the article is pretty clear.

The possibility of such a sudden change exists.

The experts tell us so.

So we should all make every possible effort to be ready.

Does this sound the least bit familiar?

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.  For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.  (I Thessalonians 5:1-3)

The Bible tells us that there is another world changing event that will happen one day without warning – Jesus coming back to snatch out His people before the beginning of a seven year period of Hell on Earth called the Tribulation.

If you think the failure of an electrical grid sounds devastating, what would happen to this world if suddenly 100 million people vanished without a trace?

Cars suddenly without drivers? Planes without pilots?

Homes and bank accounts without owners? Bills with out debtors to pay them?

Key leaders in the community, in finance, in government, in the military suddenly gone.

Would this world be rocked?

Believe it.

But the possibility of another Carrington Event has been predicted by experts – people with credibility on the subject!

May I suggest the event known as the Rapture has also been predicted by an even more trustworthy source.

Jesus said:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:36-41)

Jesus not only predicted this future event, but presented a sinless life, unprecedented  demonstrations of divine power and even a literal resurrection from the dead in a moment of history as His credentials for being taken seriously.

But there is another interesting similarity between these sobering predictions – an appeal to be ready.

Jesus said:

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:42-44)

How can we be ready for this world shattering event?

Ask yourself this simple question –

Do I have a real relationship with the One Who is going to come back for His people?

This doesn’t mean joining a church, or performing heroic spiritual deeds.

Having a relationship with Jesus is as simple as saying yes to His offer of forgiveness and a brand new life from God.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)

Have you made a conscious decision to receive Jesus as your Savior?

How can you receive Jesus? Through prayer- simply tell God that you desire to know Him, be forgiven by him and be a part of His forever family.

For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

There is coming a day that will make another Carrington event look like a walk in the park.

The wise person will be ready.

The unwise, not so much.

Spiderman Versus the Vanishing Hitch Hiker!

Back in the days of the wide open wheeling and dealing of the Roman marketplace, the smart consumer would enter into the chaos with two Latin words firmly placed in the front of the mind –

“Caveat emptor”

Let the buyer beware.

The bottom line?

If something seems too good to be true, it’s usually because it is.

This same sense of healthy skepticism that can keep us out of trouble

in used car lots

or at special-secret-invitation-only-once- in-a-life-time-investment-opportunity meetings,

is also one that we have to apply when we fire up the computer, open the newspaper, or turn on the television.

In the SRL files under “Just ’cause they said it, don’t mean it’s so” consider the widely circulated story we could call “The Blessing of the Brown Recluse”.

Spider Bite Cures Paralyzed Man: Miracle or Bad


Here’s the full story as sort-of reported: A man named David Blancarte of either Modesto or Manteca, Calif. (reports vary), who was either paralyzed or confined to a wheelchair (reports vary) after a motorcycle accident either 20 or 21 years ago (reports vary), was bitten by a brown recluse spider two years ago and sought treatment in a hospital. An unnamed nurse there noticed muscle spasms; concluded his nerves were just “asleep”; ordered tests; got him to rehab; and got him walking again.

Although the story was dutifully reported on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, the notion that spider venom was the key to the healing raised eyebrows among scientists.

Christopher Wanjek, Live Science’s Bad Medicine columnist, issues this wake up call.

It sounds like something out of the pages of The Weekly World News, right next to an alien abduction story: Paralyzed California man bit by brown recluse spider walks again. Only it was reported for real last week on CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS.

Yes, a miracle – a miracle this could make the evening news, for this was a phenomenally poorly reported story bereft of the simplest of fact-checking. Of the three basic facts reported by these apparently professional journalists – paralyzed man, brown recluse spider, and walking – two are surely false.

Yet more than just another example of lousy broadcast journalism, such stories bring false hopes and even danger to those desperate enough to experiment with venom to cure their paralysis.

Talk to a doctor

Wanjek points out that not only are brown recluse spiders not found in California, but that a far more plausible explanation is that David Blancarte was not completely paralyzed as he believed.

The bite merely served to get him to a hospital where an observant medical professional determined he needed physical therapy to walk again.

Let’s hope Blancarte isn’t inspired to try some Peter Parker like wall crawling.

So ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN got the story wrong.

They failed to fact check, or even interview a doctor or an expert on spiders before running the story.

Just because a story makes the media doesn’t make it true.

And a true story will stand up under examination.

So remember the magic words “Caveat emptor”

when you fire up the computer,

open the news paper,

or turn on the television.

Or dare I add,

when you go to church.

Or when you turn on Christian media.

Or when you read the latest best seller that is moving briskly off the shelves at the Christian bookstore.

Unfortunately, I have heard sermons, watched segments on Christian television and read supposedly Christian books that are just as shaky as our “Brown recluse blessing”.

Consider the story of the “Vanishing Hitch Hiker”.

You’ve probably heard it before.

A person picks up a starnger looking for a ride.

The conversation turns to the Second Coming of Christ.

The hitch hiker tells the driver, “Get ready! Jesus is coming very soon!”

And then vanishes.

I have heard this one shared to collective “Ooohs” and “Aahhhs” in more than one church setting.

There’s only one problem with the story of the “Vanishing Hitch Hiker”.

It’s an urban legend.

In fact there are all kinds of variations of the story that will have the mysterious hitch hiker telling the driver to pray the rosary, read the Koran or go on a Mormon mission before he makes his spooky exit.

The dead give away of an urban legend?

It always is something that the speaker has heard from a friend of a cousin.

The bottom line is this – sensationalistic claims get made all the time.

Some may even be true.

Most are not.

The truth stands up under examination.

Yes, even Biblical truth.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (I John 4:1)

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (I Thessalonians 5:21-22)

So what’s the big deal about buying into “too good to be true” personal stories without checking them out biblically or personally?

In a word, it’s about credibility.

It has been said we only get one shot at personal integrity.

If we are sharing wild stories that end up being disproven, who will believe us when we are telling the truth about Jesus?

So let’s be people who check out the latest rumor or “revelation” or book guaranteed to revolutionize our lives before we buy into it or share it with others.

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)

A Beast of a Proposal

The first Christian book I ever read as a new believer (apart from the Bible itself) was Hal Lindsey’s classic “The Late Great Planet Earth”.

Let’s face it, there are few subjects in the Word that have more potential for generating confusion than the study of End Times prophecy.

But Hal Lindsey displayed an amazing gift for taking a complicated subject and managed to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf where the kiddies can get at them.”

The restoration of Israel, the rise of Russia as a world power, even the rapture of the church were explained in a compelling way.

Now as someone who had never even heard that Jesus promised to return again, “Late Great” was a real eye opener.

I was amazed that even back in 1973, there were certainly pieces of the prophetic puzzle that were coming together.

But some of the predictions did seem a bit out of reach.

For example, Lindsey detailed the prediction that a final world dominating dictator called the Antichrist would arise and unify all nations both spiritually and economically.

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Revelation 13:16-18)

At the time I first read those words, the notion that the entire world could be unified under one economic system with a common currency that could be used as a controlling mechanism seemed pretty far fetched.

Back then, even interstate banking was just a dream and the sheer computing power of the Commodore 64 was still years in the future.

But now?

How things have changed.

If the flirtation with economic collapse that we have experienced over the last few months has taught us anything, we already live in a one world economy.

What happens in Belgium is felt in Beijing.

A mortgage default crisis in the United States directly effects the fortunes of the Ukraine.

A one world economic system like that described in Revelation 13 and 18 is no longer prophecy, but present reality.

And that reality is becoming more and more unsubtle every day.

China calls for new reserve currency Jamil Anderlini in Beijing

Published: March 23 2009 12:16 | Last updated: March 24 2009 00:06

China’s central bank on Monday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.

In an essay posted on the People’s Bank of China’s website, Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank’s governor, said the goal would be to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies”.

Analysts said the proposal was an indication of Beijing’s fears that actions being taken to save the domestic US economy would have a negative impact on China.

“This is a clear sign that China, as the largest holder of US dollar financial assets, is concerned about the potential inflationary risk of the US Federal Reserve printing money,” said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist for HSBC.

Although Mr Zhou did not mention the US dollar, the essay gave a pointed critique of the current dollar-dominated monetary system.

“The outbreak of the [current] crisis and its spillover to the entire world reflected the inherent vulnerabilities and systemic risks in the existing international monetary system,” Mr Zhou wrote.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel has been famously quoted as saying, “One should never waste a good crisis.”

It appears that the current economic melt down has provided a golden opportunity to supplant the dollar, the Euro and the yen with a currency that would occupy a superior position to them all.

Why is this proposal gaining traction?

The advantage in stability that Mr. Zhou suggests is easy to spot.

But along with the carrot of economic security there is also inherent here a very powerful stick.

If all nations sign on to this super currency, what will happen to a country whose policies become a problem for the rest?

If a rogue nation like Iran pursues nuclear weapons, imagine what would happen if the powers that be declare that they may no longer participate in the international system?

The proposed International Monetary Fund super currency could become the 800 pound gorilla of economic sanctions.

Is this the predicted global economic system that will be wielded by the Beast of Revelation 13?

The simple answer is – not yet.

But this certainly is a major step in that direction.

In fact, if you had told me back in 1973 that 36 years later, Communist China would be making a proposal to place all nations under the same economic security blanket I would have been shocked.

Now a days, not so much.

Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.

It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.

Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.

And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37)

What’s So Special About the Special Olympics?

As you are probably aware, the media melt down de jour is Barack Obama’s major gaffe on the Tonight Show.


Obama cracks Special

Olympics joke on Leno show

BURBANK, Calif. – President Barack Obama might have rolled a gutter ball on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”

Toward the end of the interview on Thursday, Obama told host Jay Leno he’s been practicing at the White House’s bowling alley but wasn’t happy with his score of 129.

Leno complimented Obama on the score, but the president quipped, “It was like the Special Olympics or something,” which prompted laughter from the audience.

The reaction to this attempt at self depreciating humor?

A tsunami of criticism.

The perfunctory apologies.

The obligatory game of political football.

And the media eventually telling us, “Move along. There’s nothing to see here.”

But before this issue fades from memory,  I would just like to add that the foundational idea behind this joke is fundamentally flawed.

Many people believe that the Special Olympics serves to provide an avenue for less fortunate and less competent  people to be able to compete and feel good about themselves.

We can condescendingly think, “How nice that those who can’t compete with the rest of us have their own little event to participate in.”

But in my experience nothing could be farther from the truth.

I had the opportunity to serve as a track and field official during the Special Olympics a few years ago.

It was there that I saw one of the most outstanding examples of poise and sheer athletic ability I can ever recall.

The event was the fifty yard dash.

As the gun went off,  one of the competitors slipped on the cinder track and fell face first on the ground.

If I had done the same during my track career I might have just slammed my fist on the ground, rolled over on my back, held a brief pity party, dusted myself off and walked away.

But this young man was cut out of different cloth.

He scrambled to his feet and began to run.

And what a run it was.

With the slip and the fall and the scramble to his feet he still crossed the finish line at 6.1 seconds.

In a word, this Special Olympian could fly.

But what made this demonstration of athletic ability even more special was what motivated him.

You see, at the end of every race there are people waiting to give the competitors a congratulatory hug.

And when I saw the joy and excitement on this young man’s face when he ran into his father’s waiting arms I experienced something profound.

The reason he persevered and performed at such a high level was simple –

He wanted his hug.

I never forgot the object lesson I learned that day.

You see, the Bible tells us that we as Christians are called to live our lives as if we were running a race.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (I Corinthians 9: 24-27)

Now we all know people who have started out in this race, only to fall by the wayside.

And sometimes we wonder what is the difference between those who collapse and those who keep on running to the end?

The answer is surprisingly simple.

Like our Special Olympian, the ones

who scramble

and strain

and stumble

but keep on keeping on till the end –

know what’s waiting on the other side of the finish line.

Even better, Who is waiting for us on the other side of the finish line.

We will see the out stretched arms of Jesus.

And fall into His eternal embrace.

So when we get tired and tempted and feel like cashing in our faith and walking away – be like our Special Olympian.

Remember the hug.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:6-8)