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And a shiny new red pickup truck

The film "Facing the Giants" tells the story of a hard luck coach, Grant Taylor, and the Shiloh Eagles high school football team at a rural private Christian school in Georgia. We watch as Taylor faces a series of setbacks. His star player defects to another school. In three years he can't muster a winning record and starts the new season with three losses. He drives a rattletrap car that won't start or stay running much of the time. He and his wife want children but find that they are infertile. Parents band together to seek to fire him. There is questionable loyalty with at least one of his coaching staff. At the end of his rope, the coach pleads with God for answers. After prayer and great heart-searching he determines that building Christian character in his boys is more important than winning football games. He tells his team that whether they win or lose they will praise the Lord. He tells his wife, longing for children, that she must determine to love God whether or not they ever have a child.

The players take on a new determination to give their best. A long-awaited revival breaks out at the high school. One of the parents who had opposed him is thrilled to find the new attitude of his recently converted son and rewards the coach with a shiny new red pickup truck. Taylor gets a 25% raise. The Eagles begin to win their games against heavily-favored opponents and make the playoffs for the state championship. When they lose the first game in the playoffs they find that the other team is eliminated for cheating, making them the winners. They win through the playoffs until they face the feared Giants, state champions for the past three years. The Giants are bigger, more skilled and outnumber the Eagles three to one. Predictably, they beat the Giants for the championship. The coach's wife finds she is pregnant and then pregnant again. It is an inspirational story that ties up all the loose ends for us.

The message of praising and loving God regardless of the results is vitally important. But I am concerned that the movie conveys the idea that those who truly love God and give their all to Him can look for every blessing - even a shiny new red pickup truck. How will this movie be viewed in Bangladesh? There the Christian believers would long for the broken-down car that the coach despises. In that my wife and I have experienced infertility, I wonder how many other couples feel the twinge of pain from the seeming message that if we had had only enough faith our arms would be filled with newborn babies. And if loving God sincerely were the sole answer to winning football games, should we not see the high school and college football rankings crowded at the top with Christian schools? Peculiar to the American mindset is the dangerous belief that loving God means my wish list can be taken care of with the right prayer of consecration. We recall Jacob after his dream of seeing the angels going up and down the staircase. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God" (Genesis 28:20-22). Here's the deal, God. You wash my hand and I'll wash Yours.

I suppose you can't get people into the theaters to watch a movie that just shows absolute surrender to God without adding door prizes to boot. It is not exciting and it doesn't sell popcorn and movie tickets. The life in Christ is in the everyday acts of self-denial, in giving without thought of return, in finding joy in the suffering that comes with a holy life. Taking up the cross and following Him does not include loading that cross into a shiny new red pickup truck and driving away to the next championship. But it is where our life is lived. The old chorus reminds us of the standard:

All I have I am bringing to Thee,

All I have I am bringing to Thee;

In Thy steps I will follow, come joy or come sorrow,

Dear Savior, I will follow Thee.

Do you ever get the feeling that you should be somewhere else - that something important is going on and you are not where you should be?

Maybe you missed a presentation you were supposed to make at work. It's a horrible feeling to let your boss down. And what excuse can you give? The alarm didn't go off...something came up...I wasn't prepared.

Perhaps you forgot an appointment with your doctor. Where I live, you have to make your medical appointment sometimes months in advance - especially if you're a new patient. If you miss the appointment, you're out of luck.

But in things eternal, we can know with great relief and thanksgiving that Jesus has placed Himself in our stead. It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34-NKJV).

That should be me on that cross; it should be you. Jesus went to Calvary so that you and I wouldn't have to die in our sins.

That should be me standing before the judgment throne; it should be you. Christ will step forward to advocate for us.

That should be me spending eternity in hell; it should be you. But the Son of God confiscated the keys to death and hell, instead allowing heaven to be our eternal home.

He took my place, and He took yours.

You don't have to die in your sin, or stand before a righteous Judge, or spend eternity in hell. We deserve those things, but thank God, we don't have to keep those appointments.

Our Savior took care of all that.


Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I just read the column "Other Views" in your publication dated Oct. 5, 2006. Perhaps the writer was unwittingly wise in giving his piece the title "Hogwash."

While none of us should ignore the discoveries of "the last 50 years," it is also wise not to jump to the conclusion that these new "definitions" of ancient phrases are affirmed by a wide spectrum of scholarship. Hardly 10 years after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, books were claiming that they revealed the "lost years of Jesus" but after several decades of study, that claim is not seriously supported by anyone.

The examples of new understandings in the aforementioned article do not affect any of our principal doctrines, certainly not the essential ones regarding salvation and holiness. Unfortunately, the writer DOES seem to undermine our traditional beliefs to some extent and - to my mind - with no reason. His last four paragraphs contain some dangerous statements:

4. This paragraph insinuates that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a truly biblical one. At least, I would appreciate further explanation of his belief on this point.

3. This paragraph seems to deny that the Holy Spirit inspired the entire Scriptures, since it accuses the "Greek-influenced church" of including anti-Semitism in the New Testament text. While it is true that the Bible indicates that the Jews (on the whole) rejected Christ, and that the Jewish leaders urged His crucifixion and the persecution of the first Christians, citing these facts, even in hellenized language, should not be labeled anti-Semitic. The Bible also shows clearly that all Jews are welcome to accept Christ (Romans 9 to 11).

2. How many of your readers will have been offended by the remark that "‘The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.' is incredibly silly"? Our beloved three-phrase statement does not ignore scholarship but affirms our trust in the God who gave us the Bible. That any one of us can misinterpret a text is obvious, but how many of us have gone astray in our spiritual growth because we didn't understand why the Hebrew told us that God has a long nose?

1. The challenge of this last paragraph seems to be that we must choose EITHER the discoveries of the last 50 years OR the scholarship of the previous 1,900 years. Surely we need both, the latest modifying the earlier, if the scholarship be finally acceptable by most reputable Bible scholars.

Major Larry Repass





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