KICK THE CAN

diy-can-for-kick-the-can-gameWhen I was a kid, summer afternoons and evenings were when our neighborhood came to life.  It was a day when the only time spent inside the house was to eat a meal.  There were no smart phones to waste time on, no video games (outside a pixelated Pac-Man or Frogger on the Atari 2600), and no Netflix.  From morning until dark there was always something to do:  ride bikes; play football or baseball in the field just down the street; for my Fort Worth friends, it may have been intense games of two-square; or, wait for it . . . a game of Kick the Can.  Best game ever.  We would play that, literally, for hours.

If you don’t know about the epic game of Kick the Can, you seriously were deprived as a kid.  But for those of you who have played it, I’m guessing there is a sense of nostalgia stirring at even the mention.

It’s a lot like hide and seek, but with a twist.  You have a person who is “It” (not the clown, by the way), who is supposed to guard the empty Folger’s coffee can.  (Just a side note if you decide to play: make sure that the coffee can is empty before you use it.  Not saying that I would know anything about that though). The person who is “it” would count to 50, and all who were playing (the more people, the better) would go and hide—behind trees, cars, bushes, the neighbor’s St. Bernard, wherever.  The point of the game was to try and kick the can before the person who was “it” could run back to the can and say, “1-2-3 I see (your name goes here).”  And if you were caught, you were captured until someone kicked the can to free you.  There were a couple of rules:  1) if you were “it,” you couldn’t be closer than 10’ to the can.  2) if you broke rule #1, we kicked you instead of the can.

I’m kidding.  But rule #1 was legit.

Over time, we had to modify the rules a bit because of . . . Alan.  Alan didn’t play fair.  He was notorious for staying too close to the can, which made it virtually impossible for us to run from our hiding place to kick the can.  So, I came up with some strategies that were specifically implemented whenever Alan was “it.”

• Strategy #1:  Get several people with you to hide in the same place, and then rush the can in a group.  Alan never had a chance.

• Strategy #2:  Have several people rush from different directions at the same time.  Alan cried one time because of this.  I feel bad about it now.

• Strategy #3:  Have the friend who came over to stay the night, and who Alan didn’t know, rush the can.  You can’t get a person out, if you can’t call their name.  Brilliant.

After using all my strategies, we had to modify the rules again.  But it was fun while it lasted.

To kick the can was a big deal, because there were always people who were captured and needed to be set free.  In order to be successful you had to have good timing.  You had to be fast, which always helped if you had new tennis shoes.  We all run faster with new tennis shoes.  You had to be strategic (see above).  And you had to take risks.  Rushing the can in order to free the captives was not for the faint of heart.

The reward for kicking the can?  There was a lot of celebration by those set free.

Looking back, though, Kick the Can reminds me of something bigger.  The truth is that all of humanity was once held captive because of sin. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He (Jesus) Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”  Hebrews 2:14-15.

All of us were once held captive, because of sin, by our enemy, the devil.  He guarded the “can” of sin and death.  There was no hope for release from our bondage.  But God being rich in mercy sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly laid down His life by dying on the cross to set us free from sin and death.  Jesus has kicked the can of sin and death, by way of His crucifixion and resurrection, and has made a way for those bound by sin to be set free.  The prophet Isaiah said that Jesus would set captives free, and open the prison to those who were bound in sin.  The apostle Paul wrote, “He (God) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.”  Colossians 1:13

Some of you who are reading this are still captive because of your sin.  The great news, though, is that Jesus has made a way for you to be set free.  You can’t free yourself.  You need a Savior; One who has kicked the can of sin and death.  And the way that you find true life and freedom is by turning from sin and turning to Jesus.  I’d love to talk with you about that if you’d like to know more.

Here’s why this is so important:  this is not a game.  This is reality that is affecting your life now, and will for all eternity.

For those who have trusted Jesus as Savior, and are following Him faithfully, we are called to go to those who are held captive still.  We need to realize that there are those around us who need to hear the great news of Jesus, and how He has made a way for us to have life, be forgiven, and set free.   We need to have a sense of urgency in telling our family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and others because life is like a vapor.  We need to be strategic.  And we need to take risks.  You might risk your reputation; you might risk a job promotion; you might risk being criticized or mocked.  Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are risking their very lives.  And some have lost them for the sake of this gospel hope.  This is a hostile culture when it comes to making much of Jesus and what He has done for us.  But the risk is far less than the reward.

The enemy is still trying to keep captive those who do not yet know Jesus.  I hope you’ll join me in taking risks to go and kick the can, but it’s not for the faint of heart.    

      

THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD

child of GodIt is an act of grace that I am here on this earth. I had no say at the time I was conceived in my mother’s womb. My first breath of life was grace-induced by the goodness and sovereign grace of God, kindly revealed through my parents. I’m not here because I deserved it. I’m here because of grace.

To a much greater extent, the right to become children of God is not a right earned, it is a right given. Here’s how the gospel writer, John, speaks to this: “But to all who did receive Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12)

Each person has been created in the image of God. There is dignity and intrinsic worth, and value, in each image bearer that breathes the common grace of God. It’s common because all who have ever lived, are living, or ever will, have done nothing to give themselves the breath of life; it is an act of sovereign grace. Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Gospel Comes With A House Key, writes, “Common grace is that kindness by God given to all of humanity—to the whole human race without distinction.” (The Gospel Comes With a House Key, p. 55)

But to become a child of God is a right that is given by God; it is an act of amazing, overwhelming, we’ve-done-nothing-to-deserve-it, incomprehensible grace that can only be received, not earned. The apostle Paul affirms this as well when he writes to the Ephesians “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In our “rights driven” culture, there is a clear dichotomy. There are those who think everything they get must be earned (or worked for) and not received freely, and there are those who subscribe to a belief that they have a right to receive freely whatever they desire without working for it. Practically, there is high view of responsibility often expressed in an admirable work ethic (which I believe is biblical; just look at Adam’s responsibility before the Fall of mankind), but a low view of our admitting our need for community and willingly receiving with gratitude acts of grace in meeting our need. In other words, pride often gets in the way of admitting we cannot meet all our needs. With those who believe they have a right to freely receive without working for anything they desire, or even need, there is a high view of irresponsibility often manifested in laziness and entitlement, and a low view of personal responsibility. In the same way, pride gets in the way of failing to realize that we don’t deserve such grace, but rather we are entitled to all of God’s blessings with no sense of accountability for our sinfulness.

Both of these culture realities often frame a person’s view of salvation. There are some who believe that they can work for and earn their salvation, to become children of God, by simply going through the religious motions and rituals that have often been identified as being good enough to earn God’s favor. Truth is, there is nothing we can do to earn salvation or the right to be children of God. “For by grace you have been saved . . . and this is not your own doing.” Conversely, to think that salvation is automatic and your right, forfeiting any personal responsibility for your sin that separates you from a holy God, is equally false. The “God is a loving God who would not condemn anyone to Hell, therefore I’m good with God,” belief is one that denies justice. For God to be fully loving, He must be fully just. And there is nothing just about God overlooking the offense of our sins. The same is true for the hideous acts of injustice we see happening in our world. At the very core we cry for justice in this world, but expect exoneration regarding the guilt of our sin against the God who created us in His image.

So becoming a child of God is given by grace. We cannot earn our way, nor is it given apart from owning up to and confessing our sin. Only Jesus was able to do the work on the cross that could secure our salvation because only He was perfectly qualified. And only by grace do we even become aware of our fallenness due to sin, and by His grace do we respond with true repentance.

To be a child of God is a gracious gift initiated by God, and by His grace we come to receive Him and believe in Him as His adopted sons and daughters.