Friday, February 22, 2019

Taylor's Gift

One of the hardest things in life is when someone else’s ends too early. Saying goodbye is never easy, but when a tragedy comes that was unforeseen, that only adds to what is already a terrible situation. Todd and Tara Storch found out just how difficult sudden loss can be when their teenaged daughter Taylor died during a family vacation. She was only thirteen, and should have had many decades of life ahead of her, but her first day on the ski slopes of Colorado proved to be her last. Her father and brother watched in horror as she lost control and slammed into a tree, which was the last thing she ever did on earth.

There were two things she did before that accident that helped to bring some hope to the family. First, she became a follower of Jesus, so her family took comfort in knowing their little girl was in heaven. And second, she lived her life in such a way that her parents knew organ donation was something she would have wanted. Taylor always put others ahead of herself, so when her parents were asked if they would be willing to donate Taylor’s organs, they initially balked, but then decided it is what she would have done if given the chance.

In their book Taylor’s Gift, Todd and Tara recount how, over time, they were able to meet each of the recipients of their daughters organs. This is such a rare privilege because many families choose not to meet the donor’s family. There was Jeff, the rancher in Colorado who received one of Taylor’s kidneys and her pancreas; there was Patricia, the nurse in Arizona who received Taylor’s heart; there was Jonathan, a biker in Colorado who received another kidney and her liver; and then there was Ashley, a teenager in South Dakota who received Taylor’s eyes in a corneal transplant. Her parents got to look into the beautiful blue eyes of their daughter again when they met Ashley, and they took comfort in meeting Jeff and Jonathan, but when Tara got to use a stethoscope to hear her daughter’s heart beat inside of Patricia, they really believed their daughter lived on.

They started a ministry called Taylor’s Gift ( to help with donation research and to promote awareness of organ donation. Since February 14th is donation awareness day, I wanted to take a quick minute to share their story and encourage readers to consider becoming a donor if your health allows. But besides that, I wanted to take a minute to give praise to Jesus, whose death makes life available to all who accept the gift. Imagine someone on the transplant list turning down a perfect match. That would be crazy! It is just as crazy to refuse the free gift of salvation that Jesus made available when He died on the cross. He’s a perfect match, and He offers new life to all who put their trust in Him.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, and behold, the new has come.”

II Corinthians 5:17

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Wee Little Man Was He

As a child I loved the story of Zacchaeus, and I loved singing about him in children’s church. We know him today as a wee little man who climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to get a better look at Jesus. The story seems kind of random, but I believe a closer look at some of the details can be helpful.

Oftentimes when depicting this story people will use a picture of what we think of as a sycamore tree, but we need to remember where Zacchaeus lived. Sycamore trees here in North America are tall with big leaves and grow near water. The tree Zacchaeus shimmied up was native to the Jordan Valley; it is called the sycamore-fig tree because of the fruit that it produces. The branches run low to the ground and bear something that looks like figs but tastes disgusting. Because there was no market for the fruit of the sycamore-fig, they were only eaten by the poor.

Now remember who Zacchaeus was. He was a tax collector, which basically gave him a license to steal. Like a rogue IRS agent, Zacchaeus could charge whatever he wanted; he exacted the taxes owed to the Roman government, then made his own living by tacking on additional fees. In order to get a better glimpse of Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed into the tree that fed poor people—people who were quite possibly poor because of Zacchaeus.

That would be like a smarmy politician in a suit standing on a dumpster while his poor constituents ate the garbage.

The fruit of Zacchaeus’ life was not unlike the fruit of the sycamore-fig: rotten. The image of him standing in this tree would not have been lost on the people around him. But as bad as he was in his life before Christ, he was equally good in his life after conversion. When Jesus forgave his sin we see a new man emerge. He gave half of his possessions to the poor (he no doubt had many!), and he reimbursed everyone he defrauded at a rate four times higher than he stole:

“Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’”
Luke 19:8

Jesus turned this wee little man into a spiritual giant. That’s what Jesus does. That’s why grace is so amazing. Has there ever been a change like that in your life? 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Christ's Authority

Only Jesus can heal someone without even being present to do it. Matthew and Luke both record an instance in which Jesus declared someone would be healed, and later the person was found to be well. In Luke 7:1-10, Jesus is approached by some people on behalf of their leader, a Centurion in the Roman army. They are asking for Jesus to come heal one the servants of this soldier, and Jesus agrees to go.

On the way to where the Centurion was they were greeted by more of his servants, this time asking Jesus not to come heal the man, but to simply issue the command to do so. According to the Centurion, he was not worthy to have Jesus enter his house, and he believed the miracle could occur even without Jesus being present. Jesus is moved by the great display of faith: He was on the way to heal the man, but the Centurion was willing to risk everything. If Jesus never came to the house, the servant might not get better, but in faith the Centurion trusted that Jesus would come through. And He did.

This Centurion was used to sending people on missions; as the name suggests, he had a hundred men under his command. His job depended on him being able to give the word and trust that the order would be fully carried out; he could not waste time following his men to make sure they were doing things right. His authority demanded that his words be carried out. This Centurion recognized that kind of authority in Jesus (albeit on a different level). All Jesus had to do was speak the word and the command for healing would be carried out, and that is exactly what happened.

That is the authority of Christ. When He spoke in a boat, the wind and seas obeyed Him. When He spoke at Creation, all the elements rushed to obey. When He gave the word, the Centurion’s servant was instantly better. That same power is still present today. When we call out to Him for forgiveness or salvation, He answers the call without delay.

If there is something in your life that seems too big for you, have the faith of the Roman Centurion. Take it to the Lord in prayer, because nothing is impossible with God.

When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’”
Luke 7:9

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Cool Coincidence

Have you ever heard of the North American walnut sphinx? It is a moth caterpillar that has one of the coolest defense mechanisms in all of creation. God equipped this insect with a nice camouflage, but birds are still able to track them down and eat them. The walnut sphinx has been nicknamed the accordion worm because of the way it compresses its body lengthwise when it is under duress. The moth has tiny holes called spiracles that allow air to exit its body while it is compressing, and the sound of the rushing air creates a whistling sound.

Here is the cool part: the whistling sound emitted by the walnut sphinx sounds exactly like the alarm call of the very songbird that is trying to eat it. When the songbird hears the mimicked alarm call, he thinks a fellow bird is warning him of nearby danger, and the bird flies away. It has been said that this moth whistles while it irks. The whistling sound has clocked in at 80 decibels, which is louder than the average volume at which humans talk.

In an evolutionary journal called Scientific American, Christopher Intagliata described this phenomenon as “A cool coincidence, for sure.” That five-word sentence tells you all you need to know about the difference in Darwinian evolution and belief in the biblical account of a Creator God. The evolutionist is confronted with dozens of examples of intelligent design (I have written frequently about it in these columns), and they must conclude it is “a cool coincidence.” When the evidence points towards God, they so badly want to be the god of their own lives that they dismiss intelligent design as a coincidence (usually while saying Christians don’t get science). The science points a Christian towards God, but causes the evolutionist to settle for “a cool coincidence.”

It is a cool coincidence that the amount of gravity on our planet does not cause us to fly away, but neither does it crush us. It is a cool coincidence that Earth’s distance from the sun neither scorches us nor freezes us. It is a cool coincidence that Earth rotates in such a way as to give us day and night, as well as seasons, and we get just enough of each.

I don’t have to believe in millions of coincidences. I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution. It is so much easier to trust in a Sovereign God that fine-tuned this universe, our bodies, and everything else to run just right. I don’t believe in coincidences; I believe in Creation.     

Thursday, January 24, 2019

God is in Control

Last week we looked at the consequences of Jonah’s sin—how he “went down” in a spiral because he was running from God. But I also believe it is important to concentrate on how God acted during Jonah’s tailspin. The prodigal prophet may have thought he was in control of things while he was running in the opposite direction of Nineveh, but even in his disobedience he could not thwart the plans on the Almighty.

In 1:17 the narrative reads, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” The Lord prepared a fish. This was not a freak accident or a random event, but was providentially orchestrated by God Himself. Did He prepare the fish from scratch just for this occasion, or had God been preparing the fish for years? Was it a special kind of fish that did not exist? We do not know, but we know where it came from. God was in control, and He prepared the instrument that was going to get Jonah’s attention.

God had already prepared Jonah to be a prophet, and then prepared him to preach to the Ninevites; his disobedience was not going to keep the Lord’s message out of Nineveh, so God prepared a great fish. Earlier He had prepared a storm that was used to toss Jonah overboard so that the fish He prepared could swallow him. Since surviving inside the stomach of a fish is not possible, there would need to be some miraculous preparations taking place for that as well. Later in this letter God prepared a plant to grow to give Jonah shade, and then He prepared a worm to eat the plant. Through the entire story God is in control.

 That is an important lesson for us to keep in mind as we live life. Jonah is not just a story about a prophet taking God’s message to a pagan nation, or about a crazy fish that happened to eat a man and spit him out on dry land. It isn’t a coincidence. God is sovereign and nothing happens that He does not either author or allow. We cannot stop Him, and He does not need our permission. Your life may feel like things are coming unraveled sometimes, but it may just be that God is preparing something that we cannot see.