an unusual 9/11 devotional

I saw this illustration in Neal Plantinga’s latest (and typically stellar) book, Reading for Preaching, p. 32, and thought it would make a good start for a devotional for Our Daily Journey. I’d like to turn it in tomorrow, so if you see something, say something. Thanks!

Seth MacFarlane is the precocious creator of an animated cartoon called “The Family Guy,” which is one of the most cynical shows on television. MacFarlane was booked as a passenger on one of the airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center on 9/11, but he was late to the airport and missed the flight. Years later an interviewer asked, “After that narrow escape, do you think of the rest of your life as a gift?” MacFarlane answered, “No. That experience didn’t change me at all. It made no difference in the way I live my life. It made no difference in the way I look at things. It was just a coincidence.”

God says MacFarlane is a fool. Romans 1 declares that everyone knows God exists, but left to themselves they refuse to worship Him or even give thanks for the world He has made. Their ingratitude leads them “to think up foolish ideas of what God [is] like,” which makes their minds “dark and confused.” They become “utter fools” who worship themselves and commit whatever sin they feel like doing. Their “lives [become] full of every kind of wickedness, sin greed, hate” and so on.

How to avoid this debauched end? It starts with gratitude. Gratitude says I know I’m not God. I depend on you, who helped me, and God, who used you to help me. I can do nothing on my own. I can’t even control my own existence. I did not bring myself into existence; neither can I take myself out. If I were to commit suicide I would continue to exist somewhere, so long as God chooses to keep me around. And He will, because He’s given me His word (Psalm 16:10-11).

Only a fool can look straight into the blessings of God and blow it off as mere coincidence. Don’t be a fool. Thank God.

7 Comments

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  1. On a day filled with emotional tributes to those we lost trying to save the lives of others, this devotional stands out. I don’t want to stand up and say, “Thank you, God, that I am not like Seth MacFarlane!” I know that I’m a wretched sinner. What I do want to say is, “God, please close my mouth when I mistakenly think I have problems.”

    I also appreciate the fact that this piece deals with an unspoken aspect of suicide. Much has been brought into discussion with the recent loss of Robin Williams, and that’s a good thing, but the discussion stops on this side of the mortal coil. We will be somewhere, as long as God wills it, whether we believe that or not. What a poignant and powerful reminder! I am grateful for it today, and thank our God for my abundant blessings!

  2. Close but not close enough. It all starts with grace. Without a divine eye-opening we all would run right by gratitude. Works salvation – it always wanting to stick its ugly head in where it doesn’t belong.

  3. You’re right that we need the work of the Spirit to be grateful. That will be a topic for another devotional.

  4. Mike, I’m not sure how much is Seth showing a lack of gratitude and how much is simply an honest (and typically cynical) response to a leading question. Most people would give the expected answer to the question but live in such a way that doesn’t show any evidence of a change in perspective. In the end, we generally fall into the trap of praising God with our lips rather than our lives.

    All that aside, my only issue with your proposed devotional is that I felt a bit whiplashed transitioning from the first paragraph to the second. I had to stop and think about the connection between Seth’s story and Romans 1. Perhaps you could modify the first sentence of the second paragraph to something like “God says that MacFarlane’s flippant attitude is foolish.” At least for me, it helps to have an explicit statement as to why God thinks MacFarlane is a fool.

  5. Thanks, Jonathan. I’m guessing the editors will change it to something like that. I like the more direct line–Seth is a fool rather than his attitude is foolish. But you’re going to win in the end. Thanks for taking time to share this thoughtful comment, especially on a new blog design that you’re not crazy about. (that’ll probably change too).

  6. Never judge a blog by it’s design….

  7. I absolutely think the first sentence of paragraph two should stay. Wow. What an impact. And, it is truth.

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