I once read about a new group being formed that I really wanted to join. There was an opportunity for securing membership at a very attractive reduced rate, and the announcement included a flavor of urgency with this statement: “This is a limited time offer. Act now!” The ad explained that at midnight on a specified date, the deal would expire and not be offered again. That was an important piece of information for me to know because after the deadline, the fee would go beyond what my budget could accommodate. That meant that I had to do a quick cost-benefit analysis because even at the reduced rate, I had to seriously consider whether the benefits were really worth what I had to pay. Limited time offers can be stressful even if we have adequate time to think about them.
I was reminded of that reality again on Monday morning when the heartbreaking, mind-numbing news of the Las Vegas massacre began pouring out of every news source in the country. At that point, the reports, while continuous, were sketchy and incomplete because the unavoidable confusion that surrounds an attack like that still overshadowed everything. The air was as full of unanswered questions as the sound of emergency sirens. Everyone clamored for details—how many dead—how many wounded—was ISIS involved—who saw what—who has video—who did this evil thing—did they get him—and always, the ubiquitous, “WHY?”
Spontaneous Prayers ~
Days later, many uncertainties remain, but this much is undeniable. During those awful minutes when the bullets were plowing through defenseless human flesh with lethal omnipotence, everyone in that frantic chaos became aware of his or her own mortality. It’s reasonable to assume that the prayers that night were as automatic as the killing mechanism that demanded them. Pleas to God almost certainly were being pumped out in concert with the pounding of hundreds of hearts overcome by panic and overloaded with adrenalin. No doubt, these weren’t uncomplicated prayers. Times like that strip away the religious fluff. The words chosen are simple and the needs driving them are reduced to the most basic issues of life. The instinctive cries to God that night were not for more prosperity, some social victory, or even a smaller waistline. None of that matters when death looms as an imminent and very real possibility.
Peter is a classic illustration of that in the prayer he blurted out as he began to sink in the midst of that walking on the water episode—no complicated theological exposition—just a reflexive, lightning-quick, “Lord, save me!” (Mk. 14:30 NKJV). Prayers offered in the grip of life-threatening peril cut through all the boring superficialities and meaningless ecclesiastical jargon we tend to wrap them in when we feel secure and in control. One can’t help but wonder how our prayers would change if we took seriously how frail and defenseless we really are in so many ways all the time. Maybe we’d blow past all the religious hype and hyperbole and get down to some basic questions like, “If the next few breaths should happen to be my last, what then?”
Reflections about what it might have been like for those who were blessed with the opportunity to offer last-minute prayers that night bring up lots of intriguing suppositions, but what about those whose lives ended instantly, and who had no chance to say or do anything? What about them? The accurate and deeply sobering truth is that the bullets found many who were just happily enjoying the music without the slightest hint that their last opportunity for conscious interaction with God had already come and gone. Their last chance to ask God for anything was snatched away from them in a violent, unpredictable, bloody instant.
Foundational Questions about Vital Issues ~
Life or death situations have a way of pulling our minds back to basic truths and foundational questions, one of which is whether the claims of Jesus Christ are true or not. Either the things He taught and demonstrated with His life are true and have ongoing relevance or they don’t. Either He really is the Son of God who died on our behalf and rose with eternal authority over the power of death or He didn’t. Either the “gospel” He brought to a hopeless world has transformational power or it doesn’t. At least this much is undeniable. Jesus’ message is about life and death. He didn’t come to initiate a religious club. He came to offer an opportunity for forgiveness and eternal life to a people doomed to death, embroiled in violence, and addicted to self-destructive behaviors,
Jesus came to sacrifice Himself to acquire and deliver the most amazing good news we could ever hear. Now He continues to offer the most priceless treasure imaginable as a free gift, and He offers it with no restrictions or limitations based on our background, heritage, race, or our individual performance. The deal is simple. He took the judgment that our sins and failures deserve in total—nothing left out—and offers us in its place His own spotless record. Here’s how He said it:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 NKJV)
Another Time-limited Offer ~
It’s a simple offer to receive—just requires a heart level belief in Him, and a willingness to forsake our sins and follow Him. The problem is that the offer expires with our last breath. For all those thinking about grabbing Jesus’ offer at the last minute, Las Vegas should stand as an ongoing reminder that our last minute may not be a last “minute” at all. What if our last breath comes unanticipated, unannounced, and with instant, violent, and absolute finality? What then? Jesus’ offer is available to any of us on any day, but it’s a time-limited offer, and once the deadline is past, it won’t be renewed again—ever.
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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