This Is Not Our Best Life

Nobody wants to die.
We cling to life like a drowning man on a splinter of wood in a vast ocean.
But if our best life is not here but in the new heavens and the new earth, we should be willing to die when our times comes.
We all have expiration dates, but they’re for others, not us. For some reason we can’t really believe we have one, and so we don’t think about it.
Today a young friend of mine, 30 years old, a husband and a father of two little girls, is dying of leukemia. It’s over for him here on earth. IMG_1685
I’m finding it difficult to talk to him. Instead of reaching out even more, I’m pulling away. Instead of ministering to him and offering him hope, I’m fighting thoughts of my own death in his dying. Watching someone you love die brings up your own mortality, no matter your age. I’ve seen both my parents die, two uncles, and several friends. You’d think these experiences would have tenderized me and the impact of the reality of death would have made me that much more compassionate and understanding. Instead, after the shock wears off, I eat ice cream.
We believe we’re going to live forever.  In a sense that’s true if we’re  Christians. In another sense it’s not true if we don’t know Jesus as our Savior. Then our hope for the future is bleak. We have no future. It’s as simple as that.
Now’s the time to think deep thoughts about where we’re headed. Are we in Christ? Is he our Savior? Do we believe he lived and died for us on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins? Have we given up our self-salvation strategies and embraced Christ by faith as the only Savior we’ll ever need?
Believe and live!
That’s what my dying friend is doing.
What about you?
Talk to me.

Do You Need the Church?

Are you addicted to love?

Not the paper-thin kind in a Hollywood movie, but the love found in God’s people, the flesh and bone kind.

Are we devoted to one another? Do we share a common life with others in the church or do we walk past them as vapors?

God is addicted to us. He pours out his love to us in Christ every day. Instead of loving others in the same way, if we’re honest, we’re more addicted to our own dreams and ambitions.

I’m guilty. I lose myself in my reading and my writing. Even this blog. I can go for days without leaving the house or talking to a neighbor. And when I go to church, very often I go home afterwards and return to my interests.  Igor Mitoraj2

If we build our lives in him, it’s going to hurt. It will interrupt our habits. It will undermine our selfishness. It will change us.

God went to incredible lengths to have fellowship with us. He sent Christ because of it.

If we choose to live private, closed lives we’re living life lopsided.

Being a Christian and a member of God’s church means a level of transparency.

Jesus was put out of the camp so we could be brought in, not to live self-absorbed lives, but to be a blessing to others.

We come to church to be fed Christ in the sermon and at the communion table, and as a result we are built up in the faith, but not for our sake only, but for our neighbor sitting in the chair next to us.

How’s it going for you?

Talk to me.

So Different

A lot of Christians think they need to be as close to the world as they can in order to be cool and accepted. They wear the clothes, drive the status car, engage in the culture, and adopt the language, even the curse words.

That’s a very bad idea.

How can a person who has been raised from the dead be anything but gloriously different? (see Ephesians 2:1-10)

It’s the sinner who needs put-on identities. He has nothing else.

In contrast the Christian has the Holy Spirit in him.

There’s nothing cooler than that! (see Acts 1-2)IMG_3779

Under the Old Covenant the Spirit was given to a few men and women for a short time to do a special work, and then withdrawn and placed back in the Temple, which was His customary home.

Under the New Covenant, the Christian is himself the temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells in him from the day he believes the gospel to the day he dies, and beyond.

The Spirit comes for a purpose, the first of which is to vindicate the promises of God. He promised in the Old Testament to fill His people with His Spirit permanently, and on the Day of Pentecost He did just that. This He did for the praise of His glory, and to make God look good.

Second, we are blessed because by the Spirit:

  • we understand the gospel
  • we repent of our sins
  • we believe in Christ
  • we feel conviction
  • we grow in grace
  • we know the truth
  • we recognize heresy
  • we witness for Christ
  • we suffer with grace
  • we die in hope

We do nothing good apart from the urging and restraining power of the Holy Spirit within us.

And one day, the Holy Spirit will raise our mortal bodies and invest them with the glory of immortality, thus making us fit to live in heaven and in the presence of God forever.

Remember, every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit, including the one you can’t get along with, are looking down on, is slow to learn, and difficult to love. Which means practically everyone, including you!

The reality is every believer is a treasure in the Holy Spirit, which makes every one of us invaluable to God and to each other.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Remember

I have the tendency to identify with my sins. If things go wrong in a relationship, or there’s some misunderstanding, or even worse, if I am criticized, I tend to brood over that to the exclusion of everything else. In other words, I’m completely self-absorbed. Even on good days, I’m focusing on myself and keeping Christ at the fringes. Living like this gives me a level of depression. I’m often broody and serious. Being joyful, thankful and seeing things to praise God for are rare. I’m more comfortable in the valleys and among the shadows of life. Even in pictures of myself as a child I see that dark expression on my face.

I’m aware that some of it is due to how I’m wired. I’ve never been the life of the party or the kind of person that draws everyone to herself. And the older I get the less likely I will ever want to be that sort of person. I’m very happy with myself.

But is God? IMG_1238

I may identify myself with Paul as the chief of sinners, but indwelling sin is not my chief identity as a Christian. My identity is is my union with the Chief Shepherd.

That’s what saves me.

God won’t credit my sin to me or deal harshly with me because he credited my sin to Christ and dealt harshly with him.

So while I groan over my narcissistic tendencies and broodiness, (even that is self-focus) I need to remember to yank myself out of the pit and look at my Savior. And I need lots of reminders to do that, so while I’m reminding myself today, I’m reminding you, too.

Talk to me.

Lonely No More

I read a recent article titled, The Lethality of Loneliness by Judith Shulevitz in the New Republic. In it she examines the damage loneliness creates on the body and brain.

She cites Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, German psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud; who immigrated to America during World War II to escape Hitler.

Fromm-Reichmann believed that loneliness was “a want of intimacy” that lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness. In her estimation,

“the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world.”

I think Fromm-Reichmann’s observations were profound, but she didn’t take them far enough.  IMG_2472

Loneliness entered the world when Adam and Eve ditched God’s oversight of them and forged an independent path for themselves. (See Genesis 3)

Since then men and women are born with separation anxiety.

We come into the world separated from the One who created us and loves us.

It’s part of our DNA.

No one is exempt.

The symptoms are all around us:

Fear, insecurity, self-absorption, lack of trust, and depression just to name a few.

What can we do about it?

The truth is no amount of therapy will do the job.

Ignoring the symptoms won’t make them go away.

Drugs and alternative therapies, including alcohol, chocolate and high-risk sports, only mask the problem.

So what’s left?

Every one of us has a longing to be known and to be loved, and that is precisely what Jesus gives us.

In all our disjointed attempts at intimacy, there is only One who can bring us into the harmony and approval we crave.

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12 (New Living Translation)

It was Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (our estrangement), and was raised to new life to bring us to God.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:38 (New Living Translation)

We don’t know if Fromm-Reichmann ever knew there was a solution to loneliness. Probably not.

But we do.

Are you ready to trade your life apart from God and embrace the One who loves you and gave Himself for you? This goes for the Christian, too!

Talk to me.

Are You Listening?

A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ.

Are you?

Take a look at Matthew 4. Jesus called Peter and Andrew and then James and John. All four were fishermen. What did he tell them?

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” v.19

Jesus didn’t say, “Come to church, read your bible, witness, and above all be nice.”

He just said, “Follow me.” Simple. IMG_1193

And they did. They dropped everything.

Have you?

Granted they were going to be apostles and their new calling would be something beyond their wildest imagination.

In those days to be called by a rabbi was considered a great privilege. And Jesus’s reputation was that of a rabbi.

The two sets of brothers no doubt had heard the kingdom was near and they wanted in on the action.

But the real reason they so readily dropped their work to follow Jesus was because God drew them to Jesus. He enabled them to hear the call and respond.

Can you say the same? Or are you so caught up with the business and busyness of the church, or your work, or your family that Jesus’s calling you gets fainter every year?

Maybe it’s time for a re-calibration of your life where Jesus is always in front of you.

Ask him for that.

I will also.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing to Say

I’ve been reading the Old Testament, book by book, and then it came time for Job.

I groaned.

I didn’t want to read it.

Some of my friends and relatives were suffering and I didn’t want to hear about one more.

But I knew I’d regret it. It had been a long while since I’d read the book, so I took a deep breath, held my nose, and plunged in.

Here are some insights from my reading:

I was surprised at the many verses I recognized that come from Job.

“For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.” 3:24 It echoes Psalm 22.

“Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” 4:17 The psalmist in 119: 9 asks the identical question.

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” 5:6 The psalms are full of the woes of man in sin, and so are the Proverbs.

I was also shocked at some of the wisdom that came from Job’s friends. Things like, “I too, was pinched off from a piece of clay.” 33: 6 It reminded me of when God made Adam.

“Where is my Maker who gives songs in the night?” 35:10 That’s from Job in his suffering and confusion. It’s reminiscent of Zephaniah in 3:17 when he tells Israel, as they face judgment, that God will restore and rejoice over them with loud singing.

Towards the end of the book, God finally addresses Job. What astonished me was how God described himself to Job. He could have shamed him into realizing his frailty in comparison to God’s power or verbally whipped him with his wisdom. Instead he asked him questions like, “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” or “Who has let the wild donkey go free?” or “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?”

These are rhetorical questions and Job knows it.

God continues to the end of the book to describe the creatures he has made, just as he did man, and no one can take credit but him.

By the time God finishes, Job is speechless.

And I was given a shot in the arm. I came away realizing since God is the creator and caretaker of everything the eye can see, he certainly will take care of me and my loved ones. It’s laughable to think he’d forget me and my prayers.

The only reason I’m still around today is God’s faithfulness to me. I earned none of it. I fail him more than I care to admit. And everything I am and have he gave me as a gift because of his Son.

I’m left speechless, too.

So really my life needs to be a showcase of gratitude.

Talk to me.