Recently, I began reflecting on my life, decade by decade. Just for fun, I decided to list the # 1 lesson I learned about life in each decade (I am in my sixth now.)
I had a lot of nominations for my first ten years of life. Like most people, the growth and learning I experienced from my birth to the completion of my tenth year seem exponential. After pondering that decade, I finally concluded the most important lesson was this: Jesus died for me. Here’s why.
I wish I could tell you I lived a perfect life in my childhood. Unfortunately, that would be a lie—a big one. Here at Shiloh, we invite those interested in becoming a part of our church to join us in a conversation we call Tell Me About Shiloh. It is a conversation about our church, our teachings, and our journey, with the desire being to help a guest decide if he or she would find Shiloh a good fit for his or her spiritual journey.
In our dialogue, each of us shares our spiritual story. In mine, I often tell how I ran around with boys from my neighborhood older than myself. Whatever sin I could commit at that age, I think I did!
One Wednesday night when I was ten years old, I was sitting in a congregational devotional. During the singing of a song, I suddenly had the realization come upon me, “I am a sinner!” This recognition convicted me. I felt sorry for what I had done; I wanted to stop. I wanted to leave that life behind. I wanted to start all over.
Furthermore, I had the gnawing sensation that I was going to hell—and I should. It was what I deserved.
Finally—and all of this took place in the span of a minute or two—I began to think, “I want to be baptized.”
I held my thoughts and feelings to myself until I got home. Then I told my parents. They knew baptism was a big step, so my dad began to study with me. To his credit, he did something very significant—he recorded our study on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. That way, I could go back when I became older and hear what I was thinking and processing at the time. (Later, he transferred the recording to cassette. I still have it to this day, and I have now converted the cassette recording into a digital format. It remains a precious treasure.)
The next day, I thought about the words of our Bible study and made the decision to be baptized. On a November night in 1970, one week before Thanksgiving, I confessed to family and a few friends and members of our church that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. H. L. Shirey then took me to our old baptistery and immersed me into Christ.
(My hometown church has since built a new auditorium and baptistery. The old one remains dry and empty as a place of storage. I showed it to my kids a couple of years ago. I think they thought the sins of my baptism broke it.)
I remember thinking as I prepared to go under the water that my sins were about to be washed away, and when I arose from the baptismal waters, I would be clean again. Indeed, I still vividly recall my emotions as I came up out of that water.
My baptism culminated the events of my first decade. It channeled my growing awareness from early childhood that Jesus died for me, so I could live for him—forever.
My first ten years: initial years of innocence followed by a few years in a spiritual wilderness, and finally climaxed by a new birth—quite a decade.
I owed all that was good to the Man who died and addressed my sins—and my sin problem.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom. 5:6-11.) ESV
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Okay, the Mavericks proved me wrong. They won their series in five games. I liked their attitude afterward—no excessive celebration. There is still work to do. I fear picking them to beat Miami; Miami is hot, playing great ball, and has three legitimate, young superstars. However, I have a good feeling about this Mav team. I think they reverse the curse of 2006. I see them winning the championship in six games.
2. Wow! This morning, I heard the news that Jim Tressel resigned. While I did not find this information astounding, I still felt saddened by it. I think Tressel is a good man who, like all of us, has flaws. This one was not corrected early on by a check-and-balance in the Ohio State system. When the flaw was diagnosed, it was too late.
Tressel’s only chance in the moral community is this: he has got to come completely clean and say, in effect, “Learn from my mistakes.” People will forgive anything except for covering up and other forms of hypocrisy.
3. Rest in peace, Cass Archer. You were a good father to my college roommate and Argentine teammate, Tim Archer. Moreover, I hold in awe anyone who could get a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in mathematics! You were a faithful elder and offered much to the Kingdom during the course of your lifetime. I am sure last week you heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
4. It’s Memorial Day. This year, my thoughts go to the privilege I had in 2010, to return to Arlington National Cemetery. While there, I was moved again by the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I do not take the blessings I enjoy in this country for granted.
5. Congratulations to my nephew, by marriage, Drew Denman, who graduated last Saturday. Great ceremony, by the way. :)