[This is the latest of my columns written for the Community Press newspapers.]
A few years ago, a group of us rented and then paddled canoes down the Little Miami River. Although I've always had an irrational--probably neurotic--fear of water, I found myself enjoying our little adventure.
Then it happened, the thing I'd dreaded and that I'd convinced myself wouldn't happen: I got tossed from my boat.
Because of my fears, I never learned to swim. The first time I went into the drink that day--it happened several more times--I did exactly what anyone like me would do in such circumstances: I thrashed like a madman.
But after a few moments, I realized that for all my thrashing, which was doing me no good, I was nonetheless bobbing along in the water. My life jacket had turned me into a pontoon boat! I wasn't going to drown.
With a few strokes of my arms, I propelled myself back to the canoe and threw myself on board, soggy jeans, wet tennis shoes, and all.
I could have thrashed until my arms gave out. But I couldn't save myself. Only the life preserver did that.
You know, there are lots of things people try to depend on to save their lives, whether "saving their lives" means protection from futility, from hopelessness, or from cold, lifeless death.
But there's only one life preserver that can save us from these things.
I cringe when I hear people say at funeral viewings, "He must be in heaven. He was such a nice man." Or, "Look at all the great stuff she did."
It also bothers me to know that some people bank their lives on the sayings of some gurus or holy men.
Or that others believe that the latest fad, the flavor of the month, is the closest they can get to being saved from all that haunts us as human beings.
If we depend on any human being or any humanly-generated idea, to give us life, hope, purpose, or joy, we're fooling ourselves.
As I say, it's been revealed to us with complete clarity that there is only one life preserver that can give us these things.
The earliest Christians, the ones who had physically seen and touched the resurrected Jesus Christ, risked their earthly lives to tell others the good news that our life-killing selfishness--what the Bible calls sin--can be forgiven and that new life beyond the grave or the fear of the grave is a free gift to all who will trust Jesus Christ with their whole lives. This trust is what Christians call faith.
Once, when the first Christians were told by powerful people not to speak of Jesus again, they said that they couldn't comply with that order. They explained why: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Like those first Christians, I believe that Jesus, the God of the universe Who became one of us in a single human life of love, grace, truth, and sinlessness, is the only life preserver, the one who gives life that lasts forever.
Jesus once told a grieving woman, "“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26)
In 2007, I invite you to let the God-man Jesus to be your life preserver. Let Him give you a life of joy that begins now and lasts forever. Allow Him to connect with you through the fellowship of a local church and a life in which you daily and deliberately depend on Him all the time. Jesus, the life preserver, will never let you down!