Mark Fox February 25, 2011

Trouble at the inn

December 29, 2010

One of my favorite Christmas stories took place in the ’60s and was written about in the “Baptist Herald.” Here’s an edited version of Dina Donahue’s “Trouble at the Inn.”
For many years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain Midwest town, someone mentions the name of Wallace Purling.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, his class, all of whom were smaller than he, had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them, or any game in which winning was important. Most often they’d find a way to keep him out but Wally would hang around anyway, not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, and the natural protector of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, Wally might say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”
Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the director, Miss Lumbar, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the innkeeper did not have too many lines and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful. And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town’s yearly extravaganza of beards, crowns, halos and squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. He stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbar had to make sure he didn’t wander on stage before his cue.
Then the time came when Joseph appeared, tenderly guiding Mary to the Inn’s door. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting.
“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open roughly.
“We seek lodging.”
“Seek it elsewhere,” Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously. “The inn is filled.”
“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”
“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.
“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”
Now, for the first time, the innkeeper relaxed his stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.
“No! Be gone!” the prompter whispered from the wings.
“No!” Wally repeated automatically, “Be gone!”
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.
And suddenly this Christmas pageant was different from all the others.
“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” Wally’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room!”
Some say that was the best Christmas pageant the town had ever seen, the year that Wally Purling opened his heart, and the inn, to the one of whom the angel said, “there is born to you … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) May we do the same.

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

At Christmastime, send your will to the gym

December 20, 2010

During this time of the year, when my favorite foods are so plentiful, I can go on a sweet-eating binge as fast as you can say “homemade fudge.” Which brings up the question I ask my wife every year: “Why do we need to make fudge?” “It is a Christmas tradition,” she says. To which I am likely to reply, “So is gaining five pounds. Some traditions we could do without.”
We have lots of things we like to do around Christmas, just like you. We read through the Christmas story, starting Dec. 1, and follow the story of the Messiah’s birth as it was foretold centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We participate in Operation Christmas Child. More than the socks, toys, and candy, each shoebox gift is delivered by a local church and the pastor there will share the Gospel message that God sent Jesus “that the world through Him might be saved.”
We sing Christmas carols to neighbors or to shut-ins from our church, and take them a basket filled with goodies. We write a Christmas letter. On the night we decorate the Christmas tree, we make cookies, watch “The Christmas Carol,” and then the kids sleep with the tree. Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap … do not.
On Christmas morning, we gather in the living-room and read Luke 2 together, sing a Christmas carol and pray. Then after breakfast, we gather again in the living-room to open presents. The video camera is rolling, the kids are at the top of their game with funny comments, and the love that we share as a family is sweeter than the chocolate chip pie from Christmas Eve dinner.
Which brings me back around to eating too much during the holidays. I will exercise more this month in an effort to fight back, but in a way that’s like building a hospital at the bottom of a mountain instead of adding guardrails at the top. I need to send my will to the gym. The truth is, many of us simply have weak wills that need to be trained, not just for portion control at the table but for every other area of our lives. Our minds are quite capable, and we know much more than we have ever lived out. Our emotions are fully operational and ready to take over at a moment’s notice, and for many of us, lead the whole time. But our wills are puny, malnourished, 90-pound weaklings. That is why I can stand in front of the dessert table and have this conversation. My mind: “I just ate four thousand calories. I don’t need dessert.” My emotions:“ Oh, good grief, it is once a year. Besides, take a look at that pecan pie.” My will: “Uh…umm… well…”
You get the picture. My will can be an absolute wimp, which is why I need to develop it. Here are some tips from a book written by Helen Andelin in the 1960s. She gives three steps to take every day to help in training our wills, which I have adapted:
Do something unpleasant — take a cold shower, exercise, or eat health food you don’t like.
Do something difficult — do a hard job, stick to your diet, work on a difficult goal.
Demand quotas of yourself — get up at 4:30, get a specific job done at a given time, put your finances on a budget, read a book every month, have exercise goals.
I need this advice, and maybe some of you do as well. Merry Christmas, and happy training.

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

When it is time to face God

December 14, 2010

It happened a long time ago on the wild frontier. There was no place to hide, no place to run, no sheriff in town who could stop the bloodshed. That’s why the younger brother couldn’t think straight, much less sleep. His older brother was coming to kill him. In a dead panic, the younger brother sent his most trusted employees to his brother’s house across the country, with a tearful plea. He said, “Tell my brother that in the years we have been apart, I have gotten filthy rich. I tell you this so you will like me.”
As I said, the younger brother was not thinking straight. When his trusted employees returned, they said, “Your brother called together 400 of his thugs and they are headed this way now. Based on how they are dressed and what they are packing, it is fairly certain they are not coming to congratulate you on your business acumen.”
Desperate and fearful, the younger brother played his trump card: bribery. It had always worked before. He filled three trucks with gifts and sent his most trusted employees in intervals to intercept his brother and his thugs. “Tell him,” they were instructed, “that these are from your lowly and subservient brother.” The trucks rolled away and the younger brother went to bed.
He was attacked in the night, not by his brother but by a much more powerful opponent. They fought until just before the sun came up and finally his resistance was broken. It was in that moment that he realized who he really was, and that it was his own fault that his brother was coming to kill him. He saw clearly that he had been a liar his whole life. He understood that he had always deceived until he got caught and then appeased until he got away. Nothing was ever resolved, just smoothed over. But this night he was broken, finally, over his sin, and knew two things for sure. He knew he was not the same person who had laid his head down the night before, fearful and trying to figure out a way to get out of what he had caused. He also knew he would never depend on his strength again. His limp would remind him that his strength was God’s alone.
When the sun came up, Jacob lifted up his eyes and saw Esau coming towards him. Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times as he approached his older brother, but Esau took off running right into Jacob’s arms. They wept and embraced and Jacob said, “I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.”
His whole life Jacob had flip-flopped from peace-breaker to peace-faker. The limping middle-aged man was finally a peacemaker. The question I asked of the text as I read it in the Bible was, “How did that life-change happen? What did Jacob have to do?” He had to stop running. You cannot make peace by running away. He had to face God. We cannot have the peace of God until we have peace with God. He had to face himself and his own sins. You want to get right? Get real. He had to face his brother. By the way, the mysterious man who attacked Jacob in the night was none other than God himself. If life (or your brother) has you in a headlock, it’s because God loves you and he knows that your only hope for peace on earth starts with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

Great joy can be found in anticipation

December 6, 2010

There is little that compares with the joy of anticipation. It is almost as much fun as when that thing you are hoping for finally arrives. Remember when you were little and Christmas was three weeks away, like it is now? All of us probably have a story to tell about things we did as children to try to make the days go by faster. Especially on Christmas Eve. My two brothers and I would sleep in the same bed that night when we were little, which was a miracle pretty close to the parting of the Red Sea. On any other night of the year, the three of us in the same bed would have ended with a trip to the emergency room. We shudder thinking about the BB gun fights we used to have. We shake our heads at the memories of sticking straight pins through spit wads and shooting them at each other with rubber bands.
We were three rambunctious boys who lived to torment each other 364 days a year, but on Christmas Eve we were transformed into cherubs whose excitement for Christmas day healed all wounds and buried all hatchets.
We would lie there “bugeyed” as Mom used to say, and talk about what we hoped to get for Christmas. Sometimes we were tipped off when we heard the present arrive, like the year Dad gave us a mini-bike and we heard him roll it through the front door and into the living room on Christmas Eve night. We were hyped up on pure adrenalin, imagining the fun of riding our new mini-bike in the backyard on Christmas Day. It took every ounce of our collective willpower to keep from sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to see this new treasure. It’s good we did not go down to look. Looking leads to sitting leads to cranking leads to riding. Through the living room.
Thankfully, we waited until the sun was thinking about rising.
And though that was hard, the waiting increased the anticipation of the joy that would be ours when we finally saw the gift.
That’s — in part — what we celebrate during this time of the year: the joy that is ours in Christ, the greatest gift the world has ever received. We celebrate his first coming to us, and we look forward to his return.
The joy of anticipation only works if you have two ingredients present: One, you are looking forward to something that you really want with all your heart and … Two, there is every assurance that what you are looking for will come.
Read the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. They were promises given by God to his people that produce the joy of anticipation. The very first prophecy was spoken by God in the Garden of Eden when he said the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head, speaking of the Savior who would destroy the devil and his works. Isaiah told us Jesus would be born of a virgin. Micah told us Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Hosea told us he would live for a time in Egypt. Many authors told us he would be rejected by his own people. Zechariah told us he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
Three weeks to go and it will be Christmas day. But our rejoicing is already complete in the One of whom the angels said, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

How much do you hate sin?

November 29, 2010

Dick and I were standing in the airport in Nairobi, waiting to get our boarding pass for the flight home, he to Nashville, me to Burlington. Dick is a well-respected businessman, at the top of his field in health care management, and just an all-around nice guy. We had been in Kenya with some other men from Nashville for over a week and had just arrived from spending some time in a tent safari camp out on the African plains. I was asking Dick about his plans for when he got home when suddenly his expression changed from pleasant to greatly disturbed. Some bystanders may have called it “mildly terrified,” if that is a possible state in which to be. Dick reached both hands over his head, grabbed the pullover jacket he was wearing, and ripped it off, throwing it to the floor. The guards in the airport, all of whom carry AK-47’s, tensed, pointer fingers moving to trigger position. I had no idea what was going on and what had gotten into this mild-mannered businessman. Some Kenyans standing in line with us started to laugh, while others looked on with curiosity. That’s when I saw the source of Dick’s concern: A bug, looking like something from outer space, very large with long legs and wings, twice the size of a praying mantis, walked out of the inside of Dick’s jacket and began to make its way across the floor of the terminal. I looked at the hideous creature and remembered Woody Allen’s quip in a movie: “There’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick,” and I shuddered at the thought of that thing crawling across my neck.
I thought about that incident last week when I read Charles Spurgeon and Richard Sibbes on the subject of a Christian’s proper relationship with sin. Spurgeon said, “We cannot love God without hating that which He hates. We are not only to avoid evil … but we must be in arms against it, and bear towards it a hearty indignation.” Richard Sibbes went so far as to say that if hatred of sin is a proof of our conversion, we must know if we truly hate sin. He listed five markers for how we know we hate sin:
If our hatred for sin is universal. “He that hates sin truly hates all sin.”
If our hatred for sin is fixed. “There is no appeasing it, rather by abolishing of the thing hated.”
If our hatred of sin is a more rooted affection than anger. “Anger may be appeased, but hatred remains and sets itself against the whole kind.”
If we hate all evil, in ourselves first, and then in others. “He that hates a toad would hate it most in his own bosom.” That’s the part that reminded me of Dick and the bug he was about to carry on the plane. If I hate the thought of the bug inside my shirt, how much more should I hate sin inside my heart?
If we can endure admonition and reproof for sin and not be enraged. “Those that swell against reproof do not appear to hate sin.”
Dick boarded the plane that day with a grateful heart, thankful that he discovered his uninvited boarder before being stung or bitten. Think about how he responded. He immediately took action as soon as he knew there was something wrong. He threw off that which was unwelcome and potentially dangerous. He left it behind.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

Where have all the men gone?

November 22, 2010

What does a young lady do that wants to be married but hasn’t been asked? World Magazine reported on one option:
“Growing old in a culture that promotes families and denigrates old maids, a 30-year-old Taiwanese office worker has decided to marry the only person she knows will have her: herself. Chen Wei-yih of Taipei has posed for wedding photographs, rented a reception hall, and plans to have a wedding and reception amongst 30 of her friends, but Chen doesn’t plan on having a groom anywhere near. ‘Age 30 is a prime period for me. My work and experience are in good shape, but I haven’t found a partner, so what can I do?’ Chen asked reporters before noting that she’ll be taking a solo honeymoon to Australia.”
I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t grab me as a great idea. The vows would be weird, to say the least, and the image of this lady feeding herself wedding cake and then smearing it all over her own face, smiling for the photographer, just makes me sad. The vision of her running through the birdseed shower, all alone, just leaves me empty. The thought of her checking into the bridal suite by herself reminds me of the college girls of yesteryear sadly saying they were going to have a “rotic evening.” That’s romantic without the man.
Her inappropriate response notwithstanding, there is a question this story evokes: Where are the men? Why are men waiting, on average, until they are 29 years old to get married? What are they doing besides getting a good education, finding a career that will feed a family, and pursuing a wife? Oh, wait, here they are, I found them.
They are playing video games. They are social networking (not to be confused with face-to-face social interaction). They are watching TV and using TiVo to record the episodes they missed while playing video games. They are playing fantasy football (not to be confused with the real game with real men in the backyard). They are watching videos online. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation study, the average teenager in the U.S. spends more than seven and a half hours a day consuming media. Every day. An author of the study, Victoria Rideout, said, “That’s more than 53 hours a week — more time than grownups spend in a full-time job.” The study also stated, “Only 28 percent of kids cited parental rules on TV watching and only 30 percent were subject to rules on video game use. In addition, only 36 percent of parents limited kids’ computer time.”
Where are the young men who are preparing themselves for the challenges and the joys of marriage and parenthood? They are in your house and in mine. We may not be able to change the culture in the nation, but we certainly have a powerful platform in our own homes. I challenge the dads out there to help your young men put away their toys and pursue manhood. I challenge the young men out there to do what it takes to get yourself in a position to get married. I challenge the young men and women out there to keep yourselves pure, withholding until your wedding day what can only be given once.
Marriage is wonderful when believers enter into that estate to please the Lord and bring him glory. Writing to husbands and wives, Paul said of marriage, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
Pull the plug on the games, men, and pursue something that will last.

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

Come let us worship

November 15, 2010

The people in Acts 12, listening to Herod give a speech, shouted, “The voice of a god and not a man!” They were in the flesh and so was he and soon he was in
the grave. When he received the praise of men, an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. Here’s a good thing to remember: Wrong worship leads to worms. I am not being funny. When men choose instead to worship the created being (or thing) rather than the Creator, that worship stinks. It is wormy and corrupt, good for nothing.
Read Psalm 95 for a primer on how and why we worship. The verbs tell the story in the first few verses. Come. There is a movement on the part of the worshiper from where he is to a place where he will worship. If you are driving down the road on the way to work and your mind is filled with many things, you can “come” to worship right there and begin to praise God. Do it. Also, don’t neglect to “come” to worship with the saints in the house of God.
Sing. Worship and music are made for each other. And notice in Psalm 95, the invitation is corporate: let us sing. Worship is contagious. I am lifted higher in my worship when I am standing with people singing with all their might to the Lord. When I am surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am moved by the power of God working in their lives as they worship.
Shout joyfully. This takes freedom. It doesn’t take freedom to shout for men. People do that all the time, at ballgames or political rallies, but those who belong to God are called to shout joyfully for him. Can you do it? Is it even allowed in your church?
C.S. Lewis said, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.” I like that. Our open exuberance for Christ makes our delight for him even more enjoyable.
We are also to come before his presence with thanksgiving.
Do you ever think about the fact that when we believers are gathered for worship, God is also there? We are joined by the One we worship. When one of my sons was about 4 years old, he tugged on Cindy’s shirtsleeve one Sunday during the singing and said, “Momma, God and the angels are here!” He was right. Perhaps a child’s vision for the unseen is greater than ours that has been clouded by years of “learning.”
By the way, here’s a side-note. I am so thankful my children have been standing beside me in worship for the past 26 years and not off in another part of the church building. They are better worshipers for it.
A.W. Tozer wrote 50 years ago: “To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service that now passes for worship among us.”
When we come to watch instead of to worship, we are in trouble and the church is, too. When we come to be entertained rather than invited into God’s presence, maybe we need to reexamine what worship is.
Come, let us worship and bow down!

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

A Volcano for God: Martin Luther

November 8, 2010

In his book, “The Unquenchable Flame,” Michael Reeves tells the story of the Reformation, a movement led by people like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli that pitted belief in the authority of the Bible against the authority of Rome and the Pope.
Reeves devotes a chapter to the man he called “God’s volcano.” I like that: Volcanoes change the landscape when they erupt. Martin Luther was working hard to be the best Augustinian monk the world had ever seen, but something inside him was rumbling, bubbling up, threatening to explode. He did all that was required of him in the monastery. He had first gone there when, on his way back to law school in Erfurt, Germany, a lightning bolt had knocked him off his feet. In a panic, facing death without a final confession to a priest, without the benefit of last rites, Martin cried out in terror, “Saint Anne, help me! I shall become a monk!” The life there was hard, and the rules were exhausting. The monks left their tiny cells in the middle of the night for the first service in chapel, then another at 6 a.m., another at 12, and so on. The rigor of the life there was for the purpose of “climbing the steep ladder to heaven: wearing chafing underclothes and freezing in the winter were thought to be especially pleasing to God, and Luther often took no bread or water for three days at a time.” There were rules against letting your eyes wander, poor singing, and even laughter. Luther thrived there but was also troubled by it more and more. Martin was tormented by plaguing thoughts: What if he lagged? What if he was not sincere? What if he got sick and missed a time of prayer? Martin, unlike the other monks, would make up every single thing he missed, using his free time on the weekends. He would later say, “If ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.”
Luther wore out his confessor, taking up to six hours at a time to catalogue his most recent sins. That would make him miss chapel, which would add another sin to his list. His priest once famously complained, “Look here, if you expect Christ to forgive you, come in with something to forgive— patricide, blasphemy, adultery — instead of these peccadilloes.”
Luther tried to find forgiveness and peace with God through every work the church required. He even went to Rome and climbed the Scala Sancta, the sacred steps that supposedly Jesus walked up to be tried by Pilate. Everything left him empty. Finally, his confessor told him, in frustration, “Martin, I don’t know the answers to your many questions. Why don’t you read the Bible?”
A better thing could not have happened for Martin Luther … and for us. It was in his subsequent study of the book of Romans that Luther read, “For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith.’”
Martin Luther understood then that men and women are saved by the grace of God, through faith, and not through human works. He wrote, “The Christian life, then, could not be about the sinner’s struggle to achieve his own, paltry human righteousness; it was about accepting God’s own, perfect divine righteousness. Here now was God who does not want our goodness but our trust.”
God’s volcano erupted. The Reformation had begun.

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

Cedars, Palms and you

November 1, 2010

I noticed a few days ago that there was a huge hole in the backyard where a tree used to be, a sugar maple that we bought and planted this week. Then, on my way to work, I saw the tree in my neighbor’s yard! There it was, and you could see from the fresh dirt that it had just been planted. Or … transplanted. On my way home from work that night, I saw the tree again, on the side of the road, making its way slowly to another neighbor’s yard. It kind of threw a wooden look at me as I slowly drove past, like, “Yeah? Do you have a problem if I want to try a different place?” I just shook my head and drove on, watching this tree struggle to drag itself down the street, leaves falling off, roots dragging behind … it was a pitiful sight.
By now you know I am pulling your collective branches … er … legs, right? Of course the tree didn’t uproot itself and move to another place. Trees have this very consistent habit of staying where they are planted. That’s a constant in the universe: Where you plant a tree is where it will grow. In fact, the quickest way to kill a tree, or to at least hinder its growth and fruitfulness, is to transplant it. Trees grow best in their natural habitat.
Christians do, too, and a Christian’s natural habitat is the house of God. That’s where we grow the best; in fact, that is where we flourish. Psalm 92:13: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” But Christians are too often like that rogue tree I was telling you about. They move from place to place, never taking root downward to grow upward, never really getting established anywhere so they can truly be used by God to do what Christians are created by God to do.
Read Psalm 92 and see how the believer is compared to two specific kinds of trees, the palm tree and the cedar. Palms flourish and cedars grow.
Palms are extremely durable during storms because of their spongy wood; they will bend during a hurricane and not break. That’s a picture of the followers of Christ. They endure. They are still standing after the storm. Besides endurance, palms also represent refreshment and rest. People love to be near palm trees, don’t they? They travel miles to sit under them. Christians are like that, the Bible says. Refreshing. Drawing others to them. Inviting and gracious. Paul commended a man by the name of Onesiphorus for being a brother who refreshed him, for taking initiative to find ways to serve others.
Cedars grow in four ways, just like Christians. They grow downward, sending roots deep into the soil for nourishment and stability. They grow upward. Cedars in Lebanon can grow to more than 130 feet at elevations of more than 6,000 feet, literally piercing the clouds, reaching for heaven.
They grow outward, spreading their huge branches more than 30 feet from the trunk, providing shade and shelter. They grow onward, some cedars living hundreds of years. Here’s what we can take from Psalm 92, then: Settle in a good church and grow there. Send roots deep into Christ and into his word. Reach for things above, not the temporal stuff of life. Reach others with your life and message. Enjoy the assurance that your life will bear good fruit that remains long after you are gone. And if you see one of my trees on the road, send it home.

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011
Mark Fox February 25, 2011

Chilean miners, a swimmer and you.

October 25, 2010

When we were at the beach recently, one of my sons was carried out past the last breakers by a rip tide. He panicked a little when he got tired fighting the current, but he had enough wits about him to call to his older brother, who was swimming nearby. The older swam out to his younger brother, putting himself at risk, and began to push him toward the shore until he was at the breakers and able to ride the waves in to safety.
This past week, we all heard and read about another rescue operation that took place in Chile, when 33 miners, “Los 33,” were pulled to safety. They had been trapped for 69 days, more than 2,000 feet below the surface ever since the mine they were working in collapsed on Aug. 5. The operation to sustain these 33 men and then to rescue them has been applauded by people all over the world. The miners are celebrities now. One report said, “Previously unimaginable riches (await these) men who had risked their lives going into the unstable mine for about $1,600 a month.” The president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, said of the miners, “They have experienced a new life, a rebirth.” The nation is basking in the glow of this rescue.
These two stories are connected: My son and the 33 miners were all rescued. No book offers have come our way. No movie deals have been signed. There are no companies like the Greek mining group offering a Mediterranean vacation for my son and one of his companions. Nonetheless, he is every bit as rescued as they. He was facing death, like the miners, and someone came from the outside and found a way to save him.
Reminds me of another rescue operation. It culminated on a wooden cross 2,000 years ago. All of mankind was trapped, buried under sin, drowning in rebellion, without hope. All human efforts to dig our way out were in vain, all of our resources and physical stamina exhausted as we tried to brook the tide that was against us. Unlike the miners who were simply doing their job, and unlike my son who was simply careless in deadly water, all of mankind was trapped and buried and dead because of willful sin. We were enemies of God and it was God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, who came to our rescue. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Jesus did not die as an example. My son didn’t need his brother to show him a better swim stroke. He needed a savior who would pull him to shore. Jesus did not die as a martyr. My son didn’t need his older brother to swim out and drown beside him as a way to evoke sympathy. He needed someone alive to help him live. Jesus died as a sacrifice. He took our sins upon himself so that we might have his righteousness in exchange. He did it all. We did nothing. The Chilean health minister said, “We called this a real miracle, because any effort we could have made doesn’t explain the health condition these people have today.” That’s right. The rescue operation and the physical and mental health of these men who survived the ordeal can be termed a miracle. But think about this: Every one of those miners, my son, me, and every one of you, is still going to die. Have you been rescued from that?

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Mark Fox February 25, 2011