Motorcycle Underwear

I’m eleven years old and I’m wearing underwear that’s covered with little pictures of a man on a motorcycle. Being homeschooled, I’m always a bit behind on the fashion curve and I don’t fully realize that it’s not cool anymore to wear underwear with artwork on it. So I wear motorcycle underwear…to a Little League game. But this doesn’t bother me because after all, who’s going to see my underwear? Or so I think. What I don’t realize is that my baseball pants are made of a partially see-through material that allows a careful observer to pick up on any underwear artwork. With normal drawers this wouldn’t be a problem, but with motorcycle underwear, well that’s another matter.

I don’t realize my fatal mistake until one of my older, cooler teammates says, “What’s on your underwear?” I play dumb, acting as if I don’t know what he’s talking about. Then he nails me. “There’s motorcycles on your underwear! Hey guys check this out, Stephen’s wearing motorcycle underwear.” I try to play it off as funny but it doesn’t work. I’m embarrassed and my face burns with shame. Needless to say, I never wear the motorcycle underwear again.

I wish I could say that the motorcycle underwear incident caused me the most shame of my life. But it didn’t. There are sins in my past that I am truly and deeply ashamed of. Just the thought of these sins make me feel ashamed of myself. These are the sins I don’t like talking about, sins I don’t want my friends to find out about. It’s these sins that prove that I’m not just a sinner, I’m a wicked sinner.

All of us have sins of this nature hiding in our pasts, like skeletons in a closet. All of us have committed wicked, ungodly, perverse sins that shame us before God and men. All of us are shameful sinners.

It’s my shameful sin that makes the sacrifice of Christ so glorious. Jesus Christ, the perfect, holy One, took my shameful acts upon Himself. Christ never had so much as a sinful thought, yet He willingly bore all of my wicked, disgusting, shameful sin. God punished Christ as if He had done my shameful deeds. God looked upon Christ as if He was the shameful sinner. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “ For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Let your heart overflow with thankfulness to Jesus today. He bore your shame so that you can stand before God unashamed. How sweet is the sacrifice of Christ.

Memories of Wickedness

I’m not a handyman. When things break in my house I resort to one of two options: a) call somebody that knows how to fix it, or b) get out the duct tape. I recently repaired a kitchen drawer using approximately 812 feet of duct tape, but apparently I didn’t use enough because the drawer broke again within a few days. So I did what any smart husband would do: I got more duct tape. But this time I also included a piece of cardboard to help support the drawer. The drawer is still in place, and I’ve instructed Jen to open it as if it contained a live hand grenade. The point is I don’t do well with any sort of repair/construction work. But I do carry nails with me all the time. I carry them in my pocket. I carry the nails that pierced the hands of Christ.

I say the phrase “Jesus died for my sins,” all the time. This is true, Christ died for all my sins. But I often forget that Christ died for very specific sins. Christ died for the arrogance and disrespect I showed my parents while growing up. He died for the fear of man that kept me from sharing the gospel with a friend. He died for the pride that kept me from listening to the wisdom of the other men on staff at the church. Jesus was crushed for the ungodly things I watched on television during my teenage years. Each of these sins was a nail in the hand of Christ, pinning Him to the cross. I carry the very nails of Christ in my pocket.

Isaiah 53:5 puts it this way, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Aren’t you grateful that Christ was wounded for your transgressions? Aren’t you thankful that each one of your many sins has been forgiven? Ponder your past for a moment and remember some of the specific sins that you committed. Christ died for each one of those sins. Can you hear the nails rattling around in your pockets?

Today, take time to reflect on your sinful past, but don’t stay there. As you remember your many sins, remember the Savior who died for each one of those sins, and let your heart be filled with gratefulness for His glorious sacrifice.

Sinful Math

I’m twenty five years old. If I’ve only sinned once a day since I was three years old that means I’ve sinned 8,030 times. If I’ve sinned twice a day, I’ve sinned 16,060 times. That’s a frightening thought. Assume for just a moment that these numbers are accurate. Over the last twenty two years, I’ve broken God’s law over 16,000 times. I’ve rejected God’s ways, spit in God’s face, and rebelled against the King of the Universe more than 16,000 times. I’ve told God to go His own way, to stay out of my life more than 16,000 times. I, a puny, insignificant creature have shaken my fist at my Maker over 16,000 times. And here’s the scary part: I sin far more than twice a day.

How many times a day do I sin? I sin in my thoughts, my words, and my deeds. I sin with a lustful look, a hurtful word, an angry response. I sin when I worry over finances, or become angry with a friend, or am impatient with my spouse. I sin when I doubt the goodness of God, and when I crave the approval of others. My sin isn’t infinite, but it sure seems that way. It’s a vast, black, vile mountain. Piled upon this mountain is year after year of wicked sin. Sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of license and sins of legalism. Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” I think Paul had it wrong. I’m the foremost of sinners.

But O how sweet are the words of Isaiah 1:18, which says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” My sins are uncountable, more numerous than the stars of heaven, and every one accuses me, rightly condemning me to hell. But the sacrifice of Christ is greater still. When God Himself died upon the cross, every single one of my 16,000+ sins was paid for in full. The cross is the mighty hammer that destroys my mountain of sin. The blood of Jesus is a mighty river that carries away every single one of my sins, removing them as far as the east is from the west. I am a great sinner, but I have a greater Savior.

So today I will rejoice in the glorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I will rejoice that though my sins are many, He has washed me white as snow. Will you rejoice with me?

An Opal Ring and a Piping Bullfinch

Charles Spurgeon’s wife was an invalid for many years and usually unable to accompany her husband on his travels. She writes: “One ever-recurring question when he had to leave me was, ‘What can I bring you, wifey?’ I seldom answered him by a request, for I had all things richly to enjoy, except health. But, one day, when he put the usual query, I said, playfully, ‘I should like an opal ring, and a piping bullfinch!’ He looked surprised, and rather amused; but simply replied, ‘Ah, you know I cannot get those for you!’

Mrs. Spurgeon recalls how they “made merry” over her request for two or three days. Then one Thursday evening Charles returned from the church “with such a beaming face, and such love-lighted eyes, that I knew something had delighted him very much.” He held in his hand a tiny box, from which he took a ring and placed it on her finger. “There is your opal ring, my darling,” he said, and told her how he’d received it. An old lady whom Spurgeon had visited once when she was ill had sent a note to the church requesting that someone come and pick up a small gift for Mrs. Spurgeon. His secretary picked up the parcel and brought it to Charles, who unwrapped it to find the ring.

Mrs. Spurgeon writes, “How we talked of the Lord’s tender love for His stricken child, and of His condescension in thus stooping to supply an unnecessary gratification to His dear servant’s sick one…I can remember feeling that the Lord was very near to us.”

Not long after that God surprised Mrs. Spurgeon again. She writes, “One evening, when my dear husband came from London, he brought a large package with him, and, uncovering it, disclosed a cage containing a lovely piping bullfinch!…He had been to see a dear friend of ours, whose husband was sick unto death; and, after commending the sufferer to God in prayer, Mrs. T– said to him, ‘I want you to take my pet bird to Mrs. Spurgeon, I would give him to none but her; his songs are too much for my poor husband in his weak state, and I know that ‘Bully’ will interest and amuse Mrs. Spurgeon in her loneliness while you are so much away from her.’

She writes, “When ‘Bully’ piped his pretty song, and took a hemp seed as a reward from the lips of his new mistress, there were eyes with joyful tears in them, and hearts overflowing with praise to God, in the little room by the sea that night; and the dear Pastor’s comment was, ‘I think you are one of your Heavenly Father’s spoiled children, and He just gives you whatever you ask for.”

Mrs. Spurgeon reminds us, “He who cares for all the works of His hand, cares with infinite tenderness for the children of His love, and thinks nothing which concerns them too small or too trivial to notice.” She concluded this story saying, “‘Bully’s’ sweet little life and ministry ended at Brighton; but the memory of the Lord’s tenderness in giving him to me is a life-long treasure; and the opal ring glistens on my finger as I write this paragraph.” (from The Full Harvest, The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon)

Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his intimate care. Jesus reminds us, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt. 7:11) What a loving Father we have! Bring all your needs and requests to him. Nothing’s too small or too great to ask – he even gives his children opal rings and piping bullfinches.

Waiting in Pain

It was 1 a.m. when the neck spasm began.

Intense pain, slowly pulling my neck forward. I hauled myself out of bed, took some ibuprofen, and lay on the couch in the living room. The pain kept intensifying, my head drawing further toward my chest. By 2 a.m. I couldn’t endure the pain any longer, so I grabbed the car keys and eased out my driveway toward the hospital.

If you’ve been to the emergency room lately you know it usually involves lots of waiting. It’s my least favorite place to wait. You wait while they take your symptoms and insurance information. Then you wait in the examination room. Wait while they ask more questions about pain levels and insurance and medical history, your grades in elementary school, political affiliation, favorite bowler and patron saint.

By 4 a.m. I still hadn’t received so much as an aspirin. My chin is practically touching my chest. I know that no human being has ever tasted such excruciating pain. What is taking so long? They must be flying the medicine here from New Zealand. Have they no mercy on the suffering? Am I in some kind of Edgar Allen Poe story? I’ll tell you anything you want. Just let me have some medicine.

And then, outside my room, I hear someone say, “Hey guys, I’m gonna make a run for some burgers. Anybody want anything?” I’m incensed. You’re going out for burgers while I’m writhing in agony in here? And then I hear laughter. They’re laughing out there. Laughing. While I’m in here with an ice pick in my neck.

Finally, my painkiller came, about 30 minutes after the burgers.

Waiting in pain is no fun. Bob waited in pain for 16 years.

16 years ago, I got a call that Bob, a friend from church, had been life-flighted to Pittsburgh. He’d flipped a tractor, and fallen beneath it, sustaining many injuries, particularly to his back and head. God spared his life and eventually he came home to his family. But Bob never quite got back to normal. For 16 years Bob suffered constant excruciating headaches, neck and back pain.

Last May he’d sunk to the lowest point in his life. He was on the verge of despair when his wife Denise heard about a new treatment – injections into the back muscles that cause them to tighten, aligning the spine and relieving headaches. Bob was skeptical but began the treatment to please Denise. But now, after a few months of injections, Bob has been experiencing lasting relief from headaches for the first time since his accident. How thankful Bob and Denise are to God. What joy they are experiencing.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why was it good for Bob and Denise to wait? As they’ve waited, they’ve developed a deep trust and reliance on God. They’ve experienced the Lord’s help and strength. For all these years, in addition to other ways he serves, whenever church families have moved, Bob’s been on the point, leading the crews loading the moving vans. You never would have known his head was throbbing. I’ve never heard the slightest complaint escape his lips. Bob’s one of the funniest guys in our church, with a great sense of humor and cheerful demeanor.

Bob and Denise have experienced Christ’s grace in weakness, and found God to be a refuge and strength. God has built patience and perseverance into them. And now, because they have patiently waited, they’ve seen God’s providence in providing healing through an unexpected avenue. Also, their patient waiting has made the answer to their prayers all the more sweet.

Is it good to wait quietly for the Lord? Ask Bob and Denise.