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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Words that Resonate: Matt Walsh on Abstinence and Freedom

Following my friend Crystal's habit on her blog, I wanted to share a couple of quotes from a blog post I read on Facebook today.

A fan wrote in to Matt Walsh's blog about how his teacher made him "feel like an outcast" and "weird" by telling his class that abstinence is an "outdated" belief and that casual sex is possible outside of any really serious commitment. Matt's response was scathing, and in my opinion, absolutely dead-on.  Here are some excerpts:

" Man, that is weird. It’s also awesome, inspiring, courageous, and extraordinary. Not to mention, Jeremy, you’re doing the RIGHT thing. You’ve got more character than most adults in this country, and you should be commended for it."

Later on, discussing the experience of those who have participated in "casual" sex and are now married to a different partner, he said,

" Do you wish you could say that your spouse is the only person who has experienced these intimate, sacred moments with you? Are you proud that there are other men or women in the world who have seen this side of you? Are you satisfied that what you give to your spouse is now secondhand?

If they tell you they feel happy or neutral about the fact that they gave themselves to someone other than their spouse, you’re dealing with someone in a very dysfunctional marriage. Any honest person in a healthy relationship would tell you they’d erase those moments from their lives if they could. They can’t, of course. Nobody can. We can’t live in the past and harp on our mistakes, but this all leads to an important point: the myth of “casual sex” persists, even though many of us — millions and millions — have seen it for what it is. Marriage as an institution is in rough shape, but people still do get married in this country. That means millions have had to look at their spouse and say — probably silently in their own heads, deep in their subconscious — “I have nothing new to give to you.”

It’s a tragedy, really. It’s a shame. You deal with it and you move on, but “casual sex” has taken its chunk and you’ll never get it back."

 Like Jeremy, I have sometimes felt like an outcast for waiting, but deep in my heart, I know it's right, no matter how many people tell me I'm "outdated." Perhaps unlike Jeremy, I've wept before God at the crushing, tragic thought of being someone's "second"; in fact, just the thought of that eternity of comparison and insecurity has only strengthened my resolve to remain pure until marriage, and to look for another "weird" person like me to spend my life with. The older I get, the more I see that pleasing the Lord is worth more than all the acceptance in the world, and I've lived long enough to see that when I obey Him, the benefits of obedience prove the truth of every word God has ever said!

I don't want the grief and emptiness that comes when we don't take sexuality seriously, and I see that God doesn't want that for me, either....but as for these politically-correct "leaders of children," what is their motivation?

 I don't know Matt Walsh and I don't regularly read his blog, but on this point, anyway, I feel he deserves a hearty "AMEN"! You should go read the whole article here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grief Observed, and Pollyanna Positivism

This year has been quite a journey, mostly full of what you might call "grief sandwiches," in which upsetting turnarounds layer themselves with bright spots of joy and victories small and large. In the midst of this, I've felt a lot of pressure to only write hopeful messages here, especially since so many people I know are going through some rough times. Maybe that's why I have been silent so often over the past few months. I mean, who wants to read a depressing blog, anyway?

But really, I can't always be Pollyanna. There comes a time when grief needs to be brought out into the open, so that mourners know that it's okay to be sad, and that God doesn't despise them for their tears.

Society, and even many Christians, stigmatize grief. Those who have suffered a loss are supposed to wave the magic wand of the Bible (or self-actualization, or whatever) at the situation, and never hurt or cry about it again. If they do, it must mean that they are weak.

So people eat their grief and confusion and guilt, or binge and starve themselves, or surgically alter themselves, or engage in cutting, or become secret alcoholics, or spend their life savings on clothes and possessions, just to try to manage the turbulent emotional storm on the inside. All the while, they are presenting a falsely positive front to the critical world (at least until the mask cracks under the pressure). Essentially, they are punishing themselves because other people have been mean to them!

But Christ Himself said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," (Matthew 5:4 NIV).

And it is written, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise," (Psalm 51: 17 NIV).

And finally, there is the prophecy concerning Christ, in Isaiah 61: 1-3 NIV:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
What is the message? That tears over an impossible grief are not shameful to God. He will not call us weak if we cry, or fly into a rage if we confess to Him that in all honesty we can't handle this situation on our own any longer. God does not expect us to be superhuman automatons who ask nothing and feel nothing, and who can bench press overwhelming trouble with one hand tied behind our backs.

God is the only superhuman! He can handle it, but He doesn't expect us to. God doesn't want us to heal ourselves. In fact, He would rather we acknowledge our enemies (whoever or whatever they are), take ownership for our weakness and frailty, and welcome the healing His capable hands have offered. When we acknowledge that we are His sheep--His needy, bleeding, crying, hungry, frail, imperfect, impractical, stumbling sheep--and trust in the capable arms of our Shepherd--our honest, trustworthy, dependable, heroic, creative, loving, generous, patient, long-suffering, sacrificial Shepherd--we are on the road to healing.

Why am I still talking about this? I have some friends who are presently facing the fact that the envisioned perfect, happily-ever-after outcome to their problems is not coming, and though my heart bleeds for them, I don't have any words of great comfort for their situation. I can't make the impossible, terrible thing not happen, since it already did. I am not superhuman either, you see.

I do know that God can bring comfort, even when words and efforts fail, and I'll keep repeating that even when no one asked me! He never promised us only happy endings (I mean, the end of the world in the Bible isn't exactly what I would call a happy ending for this planet!), but He did promise us that He would be there with us and that He would heal our wounds.

Go back and read those promises over again if you haven't committed them to heart yet. What did Christ say about grief? What did He say about how He deals with grief? What can we infer about how we are to deal with grief? It seems that if we want to recover from the impossible, we can only do it through His impossible strength, His other strength, not our own strength, not through self-abuse and self-medication, or from going to any other source for comfort.

How do you give your grief over to God? It's as simple as getting alone and just telling Him about it, out loud (that's why I said to get alone, so you don't have to feel self-conscious). I said out loud, not because there's a rule for that, but because it seems to help to not carry it inside any more. You have God's ear, so what are you waiting for? I can't tell you everything He will say, but I know that it will begin with, "I love you...I see your heart...I know your pain...I'll make it Me."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't Just Hang in There...Hang on to God

This month has been overwhelming at times, full of emotional highs and lows of a great variety. I predicted it would be a kind of wild ride, and I was right. It is hard to try to form all of that into meaningful words for my readers, so I think I'll just stick to one lesson I have learned (or perhaps, have relearned) this month.

It started with a radio show I tuned in to on my drive home from a training session at my new job. The DJ was sharing how God does not require us to "tough it out" when things in our lives completely knock us off balance, but rather, God often emphasizes how He wants us to lean on Him in the hard times.

The DJ specifically spoke out against a common misquote of 1 Corinthians 4: 13. This verse says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." He (and I) had heard this verse quoted without the mention of temptation, as a way of saying, "God won't give you anything you can't handle in this life, so if you are buckling under the load, toughen up."

It is Okay to Be Broken Before God
But anyone who has ever lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or discovered that their spouse was cheating on them, or maybe has just been suffering from extreme stress due to a crowded schedule, may have reason to say that this teaching is a bunch of malarkey.  You know what? It really is.

Sometimes things come along that we can't handle. It's not that we don't try to--no one likes to feel weak or broken--but sometimes, it is just beyond our ability to endure. Why is this such a novel thought? There is nothing in the Bible that says that only tough, superhuman people need apply for the position of Christ follower!  In fact, we serve a God who meets us in our weakness instead of only supporting us in our strengths (Psalm 73: 21-28), and who teaches us and comforts us to make us strong, rather than expecting instant perfection and nerves of steel (2 Corinthians 12:9; Proverbs 3: 5-6). It is okay with our God if we admit defeat and ask Him to intervene on our behalf or to give us peace and reassurance (1 Peter 5: 6Isaiah 37).  It is okay with Him if we hand our problem over to Him and let Him take over the worrying and the grief for awhile, while we try to get some sleep, or make dinner, or finish our homework (1 Peter 5: 7).

In fact, He volunteered for the job!  He volunteered because He loves us and feels compassion for us.

The bottom line is that we aren't supposed to "stick it out," because in doing that, we are holding ourselves up by our own strength, which is very limited, instead of leaning on God's infinite strength. God is actually the only one in control. He is the only one who can bring healing, the only one who can give guidance about the future, the only one who can bring peace, and the only one who can lead us out of the dire situations in which we find ourselves. It is folly to try to "be strong," but great wisdom to be broken before God, so that He can heal us.  In fact, He promised to heal us, so we should go to Him today.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When God Thunders from Heaven, Everything Changes

The past few months have been strange ones...come to think of it, 2013 as a whole has been full of unexpected changes. Sometimes those changes were bittersweet. My friendship circle was rearranged as people have moved away and others have been added to my life; my neighborhood was rearranged by a devastating tornado that hit my hometown; my daily routine was rearranged by the sudden departure of my beloved dog at the beginning of the year; and my plans for the future of my novel trilogy project have been temporarily stalled out after several rejections (but, as the famous line goes, I have not yet begun to fight).

Add to that the part-time job I'm starting tomorrow and I think you get the picture. It has been a dizzying sort of year for me. Frankly, I don't know if I've reached the end of the roller-coaster ride at this point or if it's still climbing one last big slope. What I do know is that God is somehow at the helm of all of this.

I can't help but reread my prophetic words in my very first post of the year with a little wistfulness: "The new year is going to be a time of completion, of finishing projects I've begun, of following through and turning plans into action, particularly the plans God has for my life. Believe me, I have a lot of things to get done this year."

I see clearly now that what I had in mind when I penned those words was far too small.  I knew that where I was then, from a spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial standpoint, was not a place where I could linger and thrive, and I had asked God for some help. Still, somehow, I was only thinking of washing the windows and adding a new coat of paint and maybe some hedges, while God was rolling back clouds, moving mountains, and picking up the chainsaw and the sledgehammer.

I'm not complaining, although I felt like it at first. What is now taking shape is something beautiful, with space to grow and live, and a new horizon, with many of the old threats and fears removed from their shadowy nooks where they had bothered me for years. Sure, there is loss, and I have accepted that, but as David wrote in the Psalms, "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me," (Psalm 18: 19 NIV).

David was, of course, talking about the field of war and prophetically speaking from Christ's perspective, but the point still works for this part of my life, and perhaps for my readers, too. When a Christian asks God for rescue (no matter what variety of trouble he or she is dealing with at the time), God moves to respond, with fury and seriousness, either tossing aside obstacles or ripping us out of them. It can be a stunning process, but it's still what we needed.

Leading up to verse 19 in Psalms 18 (which you really must read in its entirety), we see just how seriously God takes the call. From the moment He hears our request, His reactions range from getting furiously angry on our behalf (verses 7 and 8), to "part[ing] the heavens and c[oming] down," (verse 9), to "thunder[ing] from Heaven," that is, shouting (verse 13), and many other definite actions. The bottom line is that God takes it very seriously and acts immediately (even if we can't see everything He is doing) when we say, "Something has to change. I need help!"

I believe what I've been describing as "2013 so far" is the clouds parting and the earth shaking as God moves me somewhere, out of the familiar (but rather unlivable) circumstances and into something I know will be better. Maybe that strikes a chord with someone out there. Sure, change can hurt, but I still believe it is for the best. It's too soon to tell where I'm going, but I believe God is there, and I take comfort in that.

Question: Have you seen God changing things in your life recently? Can you find the good in your new circumstances? I welcome you to share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Let Us Reason Together, Part 3: The Path of the Meek

"You make a good point. I'm, I guess, kind of, s-s-s-so-sor....ahem, well, you know what I mean."
 For the past two weeks we've been on the topic of the Christian way to have a discussion that may include disagreements and differences of opinion. In part one, we talked about kindness in debate, and in part two, we talked about listening and working with others when we encounter obstacles and problems in the discussion. This week, we're going to talk about where humility and meekness come into a discussion.

Now, most people have great difficulty saying the words "I'm sorry," and "I was wrong," and "You were right." However, in a serious discussion, there is usually a time and a place for these words.  The Bible instructs us to, "Live in peace with each other," (1 Thessalonians 5: 13 NIV), and this is not really a one-time warning. Disagreements should not be the normal mode of our lives. The fact that they are explains why there are so many unresolved conflicts in the world, from divorces to wars and generational feuds, both inside and outside the Christian community.

But God has called Christians to be meek and humble as Christ was, even when we get into an argument. What exactly does God mean by that, and what exactly is He expecting us to do? Let's find out.

Define Meekness and Humility

Meekness is sometimes mistaken for weakness. According to the dictionary, the word means "showing patience and humility; gentle, submissive." These don't seem to be winning traits in an argument, but Jesus Himself praised them highly. He even mentioned meekness specifically in a sermon known as the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," (Matthew 5:5 NIV).

Jesus didn't just praise meekness; He lived it while He walked the earth. He was patient with the Pharisees (Jewish teachers of the law), and He was patient with the weaknesses and failings of His disciples, explaining to them over and over again the basic lessons they were slow to learn. He was gentle with Peter, even after Peter denied even knowing Him. Jesus was submissive to the authorities and leaders who tried Him in a sham court, tortured Him, and executed Him. Above all else, Jesus was humble, obeying God's plan with strict obedience like a servant or slave, no matter what others thought of Him, instead of trying to get His own way or preserve His own dignity.

Meekness sounds like a pattern for losers, yet it is strength in God's service. Jesus could have been a "heavy hitter," always forcing His point across and demanding that others give Him honor above everyone else. He certainly had the authority to do so! Instead, He came to show us that God wants willing friends, not drafted enemies. Meekness means putting aside one's own feelings, desires, and will for a little while, in the interest of giving another person freedom and honor. This is not popular, but no one could argue that it is bad.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 NIV
By being meek toward God and obeying His plan all the way to the point of death, Jesus gave God the chance to prove Himself and His plan to be right and good. God rewarded that obedience with resurrection and eternal life. By being meek toward His fellow man, Jesus earned the approval of everyone. They might not have agreed with Him, but they couldn't find fault with the way He treated them, and they were even confronted with the reality that they needed to be more like Him if they wanted to call themselves righteous.

So, how do the meek inherit the earth? While the forceful cut to the head of the line and gain some prosperity and honor along the way from their fellow man, the meek choose righteousness over human approval, and in the end, God honors them with the gift of eternal life.

Meekness is delaying a certain type of gratification (gratification of our need for honor and approval), until that moment, which may come many years later, when that need will be fully satisfied by God, in a much larger way than any crowd of people could have accomplished. After all, "[God] mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed," (Proverbs 3: 34 NIV).

Winning or Losing Gracefully

Right in line with this discussion on meekness is the topic of how to win (or lose) gracefully, that is, in a meek and humble way.  It might seem like a good idea to rub it in and celebrate our victory openly when our side wins and the other side loses, particularly when there was no question that our side was backed by God's approval. However, this is what the Bible says: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them," (Proverbs 24: 17-18 NIV).

In fact, there are several recorded prophecies against neighboring kingdoms who gloated and rejoiced when Israel was taken into captivity in Babylon (in books like Jeremiah, Amos, Nahum, and Zephaniah).  God punished Israel's sin first because of their hypocrisy, but at the same time, He swore to punish their neighbors as well, because overlooking their sins at that moment would have been hypocritical on His part. What was God trying to say? Only that when a human enemy loses, we should pause and learn from it, so that we don't fall for the same kind of reasons. After all, it very well could have been us, if we had chosen differently.

On the other side of the coin, if we find ourselves the losers of an argument, we shouldn't be sore losers. If we have been proven wrong, we should remember that "Love...rejoices with the truth," (1 Corinthians 13: 6 NIV), and warmly receive the truth that has been shown to us.  Even though it may not be what we were hoping for, we know that it is what is good for us. If we have lost unjustly, we should remember that Jesus was meek when dealing with His enemies, because He was trying to give them another chance and win them over.  Being petty and immature certainly isn't going to do that.

The Power of Apology

 So, let's say we've forgotten to be meek and humble, and gloated over our victory, or said a few things we probably shouldn't have. There is still a chance to humble ourselves. It's called an apology.  Yeah, I know, most of us are fairly allergic to that word, and when we apologize, it's often half hearted or partially left to the imagination. A total apology feels like losing part of ourselves, and it probably is.

As a wise friend once said to me, "God doesn't want to hurt your pride. He wants to kill it." Pride is the thing that dies when we humble ourselves, become servants to the one we hurt, and ask forgiveness. Pride is an over-inflated sense of self, and it leads to separation from God and others. It is our downfall, as it says in Proverbs 16: 18 (NIV), "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."  God wants to defeat our pride, because He doesn't want to see our destruction.

That means that if we have to give up any victory we've gained in a dispute by apologizing, we must do it. It might not change a thing with our opponent, but it's what our soul needs (see Matthew 5: 21-24).  Since a real, heartfelt apology is incredibly rare in this world, it might get approval from others. It might. That doesn't mean it will. Apologies are more about setting things right between our hearts and God than they are about winning arguments. Nevertheless, this needed to be mentioned, because it's essential to being a meek Christian.

In Summary

God's position on meekness is entirely contradictory to what the world perceives as strength in a discussion. He honors those who are kind, patient, and servant-like over those who push forward and gain victory in any way they can. He sets the meek apart from the mainstream by directing them to continue this pattern of meekness, even after a victory, even after a defeat, even when the time for apologies has come.

Why does God make such a point about meekness? Because it is part of His very character, and He wants our character to be more like His--healthy and above reproach. The point is not whether we win the temporal argument and vanquish our fellow man, but rather that during and all through an argument, we continue to honor our Savior, so that we can one day enjoy our eternal reward and lasting inheritance with the Lord.

 Hope in the Lord and keep his way.  He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. (Psalm 37: 34 NIV)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Let Us Reason Together, Part 2: Scaling High Walls in Debate

"You can keep talking if you want, but I won't be listening!"
"Well, fine, if that's the way you want it!"
Next to kindness, listening (or not listening) is one of the biggest issues when it comes to a successful, civilized discussion. I think it's safe to say that most people do not appreciate stonewalling when they are trying to discuss a matter with others, particularly if the topic is a sensitive one, like religion. If neither party is listening, what is the point of talking?

Listening is necessary. After all, listening is not the same thing as agreeing...although it can sometimes lead to a truce.

Last time, we talked in-depth about the importance of kindness in any discussion or argument.  Here is the link to Let Us Reason Together, Part 1: Christian Debate and Kindness.  Today, we're going to talk about three major listening-related impediments to an effective debate, and how Christians can overcome these obstacles. If you've got more to add, I'd love to hear from you in the discussion section on this article. Now, let's get started!

Tough Questions

Scaling High Walls. Photo credit here.
The number one impediment in any discussion is the difficult question.  I mean, your side of the argument is going well, and then suddenly the other person arrests your progress by raising a question so daunting, you can't seem to begin to answer it.  Many people avoid discussing really important matters of faith or lifestyle with others, even their fellow Christians, out of sheer dread of this stone wall.

Honestly, though, a question is actually a good sign, even if it's an angry question. It means that the other person was listening to what you've been saying, and obviously, it is an excellent chance to get your point across.

So how do you go about answering a tough, out-of-the-blue question? The first thing to remember is the Biblical advice, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger," (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).  It doesn't matter how frustrated you are, or how much your voices have been raised up to this point. When someone asks you a good question, answer gently. Do not shout back an insult. Do not question the other person's right to pose the question, just because it is frustrating you.  Gentleness is disarming because it is totally unexpected, and completely foreign to such discussions. This is why Christians are instructed to be gentle at just such times, because this is a reflection of God's character, once again.

Now the Bible advises us to "be prepared, in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4: 2 NIV), especially about theological issues, which means we should know what the Bible has to say about the subject in advance (see also 2 Timothy 2: 15). Sometimes, however, we come upon a question and don't know how to answer it, because it calls upon knowledge that we just don't have.

The Bible instructs Christians at this point to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He will give us the right words at the right moment (Matthew 10: 19-20), because He already knows how this conversation will end and what needs to be said.  He is interested in getting at the truth, even more than we or our audience may be, because truth is an essential part of the nature of God. Christians should be willing to let their cause be lost, whatever it might be, if it cannot be proven to be true, because if they are fighting for a lie, they are on the wrong side (see John 14: 6).

I would also like to add that it is perfectly okay to say "I don't know," or "I need to look that up and get back to you on that," even if there may never be another chance to answer the question.  It is better to admit you don't know than to say something wrong and discredit everything else you have said.

Red Herrings

Closely related to the brick wall of the difficult question is the moment when the subject suddenly veers off into something seemingly unrelated.  This is especially difficult if you don't know where to go from there.  Some Christians have called these conversations "divine appointments," and advised their fellow Christians to just go with the flow of conversation. Perhaps this other person (or you) needs to learn about this new topic more than the one you had originally planned.

I was not able to find a perfect example of this in Scripture, but I do recall the story of Philip meeting the Ethiopian official on the road to Gaza, south of Jerusalem (Acts 8: 26-39). What started as two strangers randomly meeting at the side of the road and striking up a conversation, ended with a conversion and baptism.  The key is that Philip stopped to let the man establish the topic (a passage from Isaiah he was puzzling over) and went from that starting point to talk about his life mission, which was to share the news of Jesus Christ.

So what can we take from that story to use in every serious conversation we have? Let the other person establish the topic, and go from there, as a demonstration of the Lord's servant heart and Christian courtesy.

What about those times when the other person just changes the subject because they don't like where the conversation is going? You know what I'm talking about: hecklers.  The Bible simply tells us not to argue with someone for the sake of arguing, or to put it more eloquently, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him" (Proverbs 26: 4 NIV). Just be careful not to walk away from honest questions.  It will take the Holy Spirit's guidance to know the difference.

Old Wounds

The third real impediment to civilized Christian discussion is old baggage, in the form of wrongs that have been said in the past.  These  have a way of making a conversation heated quickly and without much warning.

Asking forgiveness, and being forgiven, is the basic way to get through this blockade, but that sounds easier than it is. The Bible instructs us to settle the matter as quickly as we can (Matthew 5: 25), and gives us a good guideline with the advice, "do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (Ephesians 4: 26b NIV). Since we can't stop the sun from going down, we have to release that anger to the Lord. We can't wait until that other person says they are sorry or even changes their ways. We have to forgive before forgiveness is asked, and that takes the special help of the Holy Spirit (see also Colossians 3: 12-14).

There is another kind of baggage, though. That is old wounds from other people in other situations that didn't involve us at the time they took place. Though we cannot undo what has been done, and our apologies about that situation are not as good as an apology from the one who caused the wound, we as Christians can still bring healing to the situation. We should treat this person (whether an unbeliever or a believer) as we have been told to treat everyone, that is, doing what Christ would do. Treat the wounded as our betters, with great patience and kindness, so they can know the love of God, which wasn't shown to them in the past. God's power, and not anything we can say, can heal this wound.


The underlying solution to any conversational roadblock in a Christian discussion is the power of the Lord.  We need to pray and let the Bible and the Holy Spirit guide us before and during any kind of an intense discussion. The Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16: 7), and He knows what the heart needs. He knows when the heart needs answers to tough questions, or when a person needs help with something that wasn't on the agenda. He knows when we need to apologize, or when we need to be kind to someone who isn't used to receiving kindness from others.

Ultimately, discussion and debate, from a Christian perspective, isn't about winning or accomplishing something we've planned. It's about hearing, sharing, and expounding upon the truth and the love of Christ with each other, and with the world, on God's schedule.  God removes walls and barriers, not us. As the Bible says, "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty," (Zechariah 4: 6 NIV). Nothing is accomplished without God's guidance.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Let Us Reason Together Part 1: Christian Debate and Kindness

"I disagree with you for the following reasons: (1) I think you're less-intelligent than me, and (2) I've had this opinion for a long time, I really like it, and am not thinking about changing it.  If you continue to press the point or present me with further uncomfortable facts, I will be forced to vocally question your sanity and insult your way of life."

How would you feel if someone used this line of debate technique on you?  What would you think if the topic under discussion was "Why you should believe in Jesus" and the person speaking was a self-proclaimed defender of the faith?

 Today, I want to begin to talk about debating our opinions (and our faith) in a manner befitting Christians.  When we defend our faith (or any opinion, for that matter), we are presenting a view of Christ to the world, which means our words can have eternal consequences.  We can wound or heal; we can shut the door of Heaven or open it wide to a searching person.  Because of this, we should really, really (can I emphasize this enough?) guard our words and our demeanor carefully.

The Root of Kindness...

The groundwork for any discussion should be a rule of kindness. I'm not talking about some official rulebook for order in a meeting; I'm talking about a personal decision to be kind, no matter what happens, and no matter what the other person says or does. That's impossible, you say?

The Bible says that kindness is one of the "fruits of the spirit," (Galatians 5: 22-23), that is, it is an expression of the power and presence of God in a Christian's life.  Now, those who do not personally acknowledge God as Lord of their life can be kind at times--we hear it on the news and should give them credit and praise for it--but there is a difference between Christian and non-Christian kindness.

Jesus called attention to the difference when He described what would be called a "normal reaction" and then stated what God expects people to do instead:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5: 38-47 NIV)
Kindness is Unmerited Favor. Image: Eddie Two Hawks
In a nutshell, non-Christians give people back to others what they have earned and deserved, but Christians should give undeserved grace and favor in return for cruelty, disrespect, and unkindness.  Jesus doesn't just flatly demand this change in behavior; He backed it by modeling it personally. In fact, in Matthew 5: 48 (the sentence that comes immediately after the passage above) Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  That is, be complete, mature, and fully-developed in your behavior, living up to the higher and more honorable standard God has modeled for you. What did God the Father do to model this perfection? He sent His son to rescue an undeserving people (See also Micah 6: 3-8).

So, we can establish that the origins of true kindness are from God and manifestations of His own character, and that they are something contrary and completely foreign to normal thinking outside of those who follow God. How about those who practice unmerited kindness but don't want anything to do with God?  The Bible describes this scenario, too, with a phrase: "having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3: 5 NIV), that is, these people conform outwardly to a model God established, but in their hearts, they reject the power behind that pattern and thus the power of that pattern, dooming themselves with their own hypocrisy (see also Matthew 25: 31-46 NIV).

Applying Kindness to a Debate

Since kindness comes from God and was first modeled by Him, it should be applied with a sense of its sacredness, that is, with an awareness of what it represents. If you are proud of your relationship with God, kindness should be liberally applied to others, but if you are embarrassed about God, you should be stingy with kindness.

Yes, I am being facetious to make a point.

If you are having problems being as kind as Christ, then you should at least go by your own personal human reference point, using the rule Jesus suggested: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets," (Matthew 7:12 NIV). This is really a gateway into understanding God's kindness toward us, by causing us to give some serious thought about a key question: What do we want others to do to us?

So, at the beginning of debate, before even opening our mouth, we are directed to think first about that question.  We have to do it again and again, as necessary, before each exchange in the conversation.  We have to keep it in mind before we take action. We have to think about it after the blow lands but before our cheek stops smarting.  Because God has made us with thinking, reasoning minds, we are expected--no, required--to think, and because not all of us are old, studied, or gifted with cleverness, we were given a question even a child could answer. What do we want others to do to us?

This habit has a peculiar significance for Christians, because when we act according to its direction, we are as much as saying, "Not my will be expressed here, but Yours, Jesus," and "Not my honor be defended here, but Yours, Jesus."  If we can get into the habit of remembering and honoring this rule every day, but particularly during an argument, we are welcoming Jesus in to bless and sanctify our speech, and to direct us to say what is beyond our human power to say. Only Jesus has the power to tame the tongue; it is beyond human will power to control its poison (see James 3: 7-12 NIV).

In short, during debate of any sort, invite Jesus in and He will teach you kindness, and His presence in the conversation will bring reward for both you and your debate opponent.

Does Kindness Mean Backing Down or Standing Your Ground?

The Bible doesn't say or even imply that Christians are always right or that God will always support every idea a Christian has or feels. This means that sometimes Christians have to back down in a debate, even when they don't feel persuaded by the other person and still feel that they are right. I have struggled with this and I've seen others struggle with it even more than I ever have, because it's really hard to lose, particularly if you have a strong, winning personality type.

But, I won't go into that right now.

The fact is, in some cases, it is kinder and more godly to back down from an argument before it even begins, while in other cases, it is better to pursue the point.  The good thing is that the Bible gives us guidance about that, too!

In the case of choosing when to back down, 2 Timothy 2: 23-24 (NIV) says, "Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." Here you see kindness shown as the foundation for choosing not to argue, rather than the foundation for argument, because the subject of the argument is not important enough for debate.

When is it important enough to keep arguing? Only when the subject hinges on a matter of absolute truth and obedience toward God, not something "foolish and stupid," that is, something that doesn't have eternal significance.  For instance, when Goliath challenged the strength and the king, and thus the God, of the nation of Israel, David had to go out onto the battlefield to fight him (1 Samuel 17). Later, when Ahab and the prophets of Baal proposed that their god was more powerful than Elijah's God, he had to debate with them, by agreeing to build an altar and letting the entire stakes (the choice of whether the nation would follow Baal or God) rest on the outcome of the debate (1 Kings 18: 16: 39).

It is interesting to point out that in the case of these sanctioned debates, the very nature of truth and the power of God was in question, and in the end, it was God and not a person who defended the point. He only worked through an individual's obedience and bravery to make His opinion known. 

Summary: Kindness in Debate

Looking back over this discussion so far, there is a clear thread running through all my points.  Kindness comes from God; it does not come from man.  Kindness is ultimately implemented by God through obedience to His will as we choose our words and actions carefully. Finally, kindness chooses our battles, and as a manifestation of the power of God, kindness fights our battles on matters of eternal spiritual significance, because Christ, as a matter of kindness, "is not willing that any of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18: 14 NIV), but that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3: 16 NIV).

Monday, July 15, 2013

The End is the Beginning

Still Singing!
As a writer, I rarely find a time when words begin to fail me, but it seems like that has been the case for me lately, especially when I try to write on this blog. I am in a thoughtful mood again today, trying to find some way to put my feelings onto paper (well, a screen, anyway).

At the start of this year, I wrote about how I felt God telling me that 2013 was going to be a year of "ending things."  I've seen that coming true ever since then, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ones. Moving forward is a good thing, but sometimes change comes through bittersweet endings, and I've seen a few this year.  The loss of my dog was one, and the tornado that tore through my hometown was another.  A friend of mine is moving away tomorrow, and with that, I see an era or a chapter closing, at least in what I consider my old familiar pattern of life.

It's not all bittersweet, though. Over just the past few weeks, I've been able to move forward on my writing career goals after what seems like years of delays. I've also gained some clarity through all of these changes that will help me organize the rest of my work and life. Besides that, God has been reconnecting me with old friends and adding new ones to my life.

Look on change from an eagle's point of view...
He is opening doors for me, and although I don't fully know what to expect out of the rest of this year, I still feel that God is going to be with me, and that He is behind these changes.

If you, like me, are going through some whirlwind changes right now and are perhaps feeling a little weary in the midst of them, be reminded that God is in control, and that you can trust Him. Throughout Scripture we read how the prophets under God's direction predicted the end of things, but never do we read of an end without talk of a new chapter to follow...and that is always a grand and beautiful thing!

When something is taken, God restores, and when the end comes, God has made Heaven to follow.

Here is a passage that has come up in conversation a number of times over the past few weeks. It has encouraged me, and I think it will encourage you.
Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40: 28-31 NIV)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Share God's Heart with Your Words

A view of the landscape from a Glen Eyrie parking lot
I traveled to a writer's workshop last weekend called "Pour It Out on the Page," with guest speakers Angela Hunt, Bill Meyers, Nancy Rue, and Kathryn Mackel. It was a very full weekend, with lots of workshops and a beautiful setting at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO. I really recommend the place for any Christian looking for a restful, refreshing getaway, and I recommend the writer's workshop for Christians looking to recharge their writing and get empowerment from fellow Christian authors.

There was so much to absorb while I was there, but I think the parts that stuck with me the most were the morning and evening keynote speeches by the guest speaker/authors.  This was their opportunity to share their philosophy and beliefs about writing, and all of them spoke about the mission of writers to use their writing to share God's heart with the world, particularly in these dark times, whether through humor or something more serious, or just a positive message of hope in the midst of tragedy.

 There was pervasive imagery in the speeches at the workshop of God's goodness and anointing filling us up and overflowing in our writing, just as God's Son, Jesus Christ, was God's Word poured out into our lives (John 1:1; Matthew 26: 27-28), so that we could share that blessing with others (Luke 6: 38).

I share their feelings.  I believe that if you put words out there for others to read (even if you're just tweeting something or posting it on Facebook), you are influencing the world in some way.  I've got to hope that it's a positive, godly way. I pray that what Christians write (and myself, in particular) is God's blessing passed on, and not just the usual blandness of the everyday world regurgitated once again for those who have seen too much of that darkness.

I know that not every opportunity to write is a time to lay out the Roman Road and stage an altar call, but I do know that every time I write something, I have an opportunity to show the world some virtue or some glimpse of the good things that the Lord has given us.  Goodness, kindness, and virtue are novel things in this world, while emptiness and despair are the everyday.  I want to remember that, and I want to take this job seriously. I hope my readers will, as well.

I recall a blog post I wrote back in 2011 about the power of words. It was called, "Finding the Best Words," and it spoke about the immediate and eternal consequences of our words. I encourage you to read it (no, I'm not selling anything), and of course I encourage you to respond to it.  What do you feel is your personal responsibility when it comes to the words you write every day?  How does your job or position in life give you a unique message that the hurting world needs to hear?

I'd love to hear from you!  Meanwhile, this song, "Words," by Hawk Nelson, seems to be very fitting for today, so I thought I'd link to it here:

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Ultimate Adoption Story

Image found here
For some reason, adoption has come up several times in conversation over the last few days. That was topped off with a sound byte I heard from an interview this morning about the new movie, "Man of Steel." The interviewer called it, "the ultimate adoption story."  Really?  I can think of a better one.

The Son of God became man and came to earth as a helpless infant (Philippians 2: 6-8). He was raised by human parents who did not always understand Him and sometimes failed to support Him in His mission (Luke 2: 41-52; Luke 8: 19-21), but He loved them and cared for them, and they loved Him in return, even at the end (John 19; 25-27). His biggest weakness, as His enemy, Satan, saw it, was His love for people, including those who didn't know Him or love Him (Romans 5: 7-8), which brought Him to death on the cross (John 15: 1-14).  He had a greater purpose, however, and the cross was part of that purpose. He wanted to make a way for all orphans to be adopted and to know His love, and the love of His Father in Heaven (Romans 8: 14-17), but that had to come through His suffering. He willingly accepted the cost so that He, and all the people He loved, could reap the reward. This means that His biggest weakness turned out to be His greatest strength (Philippians 2: 9-11), because through love and obedience to His Father, He defeated the ultimate enemy, death!
Image found here

Those who know Jesus and obey the Father will be called children of God, not orphans any more, never rejected or alone again. Now, how is that for an adoption story?

Feel free to leave a comment on your thoughts about "Man of Steel" versus Jesus' story (how it compares and how it is different), or share your thoughts about your own "adoption" story. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Words of Refuge

Bits of paper, siding, and insulation on my lawn
after a tornado passed close by two weeks ago.
Another week has gone by, punctuated by yet another terrible, stormy night that brought tornadoes to my area and left more people homeless and sifting through the wreckage of their lives. This time, the clouds also brought deadly flooding rains.

I would say that the chaos is taking its toll on everyone, even those not directly affected by the storms. In the aftermath of anything like this, there is widespread anxiety, stress, and depression as the populous struggles to accept what has happened. This is a natural grief process.

People need to feel that they are safe, and that someone is looking out for them. They need reassurance and comfort concerning their present circumstances and the future that currently seems out of reach.  They are not going to find that kind of comfort in rituals, which have been disrupted; possessions, which have been taken or threatened; or most kinds of organized religion, which preach that humankind is nothing and the deity of choice is the only one who matters.  Christianity stands alone in its statements that (1) the lives of people matter to God, (2) are all equal in His presence, (3) God specifically cares about every individual, and (4) He personally intervenes in our circumstances and lives.
  1.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," (John 3: 16 NIV).
  2. "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," (Galatians 3: 26-28 NIV).
  3.  “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18: 12-14 NIV)
  4. " And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," (Romans 8: 28 NIV).
I realize there are many hurting people who need that comforting reassurance right now. They may have heard that the God of Christianity is none of those things, and they may have encountered supposed "representatives" of Christianity who wronged them at one time.  They may be afraid to reach out to God, fearful of the stigma from family and friends, or just cautious.

If you feel that way, I encourage you to seek out the truth about Christianity in the Bible, which is what God has said about Himself and His intentions.  I personally have nothing to gain from saying this, but I know how much you can gain from a personal relationship with Christ.  I urge you to find that calm reassurance that has helped me through the last few weeks. I know that Christ can help you, too, no matter what you are facing right now. He is a friend who cannot be moved or taken away from you:
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 8: 38, 39 NIV).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Near to the Brokenhearted

Last week, I ran some errands Monday morning, fully intending to follow my normal routine and post a blog update here by the late afternoon.  I had no idea that a tornado was about to tear through the middle of my town, leaving behind multiple dead or wounded and cruelly shredding homes, businesses, and landmarks.

I was blessed not to lose anything in the storm. I was blessed that all of my friends made it out safely (even though their house did not). I say we were blessed, that is, protected and rescued by God, even though much was lost.

I don't want to downplay grief. That would be cruel, and totally unlike God's response to the aftermath of a disaster. The Bible says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18 NIV). God is not far away, looking down at people without compassion. He has promised comfort to those who mourn (Matthew 5: 4), and He will be the one who will bring that true healing, as He promised long ago, "Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well.  I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow," (Jeremiah 31: 13 NIV).

"Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair," (Isaiah 61: 3 NIV).

Now that we are reminded about God's response to disaster, we should remember what God asks of Christians in such terrible situations. Christians are told to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn," (Romans 12:15 NIV).  Our attitude is so important!  Jealousy over those who fared better and callousness toward those who lost everything is out of place among believers, especially in the middle of disaster.

How do we rejoice with others when we are personally mourning? How do we mourn with others when we are rejoicing ourselves? This attitude cannot come from within ourselves. It is self-contradictory, and at its very root, it puts others first. It has to come from a tenderheartedness and selflessness born of God, not from ourselves. It has to come from a transformed heart, inclined to look beyond our own situation and respond to others as God does.  If you're struggling with a wrong attitude right now, just remember, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength," (Philippians 4: 13 NIV). God will help you through this, too.

Finally, for those who are far away and wondering what to do after this disaster (and I have had numerous people contacting me and offering financial help and donations after this tornado), I would say that your charity is helpful, but the most powerful and far-reaching thing you can do is pray.  Pray for people who do not know the Lord to turn to Him and be comforted. Pray for those who do know the Lord to be strengthened as they begin to regroup and rebuild. Pray for their protection, physically, financially, and spiritually, especially over the next few weeks. Pray for healing, for individuals and for the cities that have been affected by tornadoes, flooding, and other disasters over the last couple of weeks.  Above all else, model prayer for others, so they will remember to turn to God in their own troubled times.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Early in the morning, you might feel like a fish out of water when you climb out of those warm, soft covers into the cool morning air. You might be reluctant to move, even though you realize you must get up and face the day.

Similarly, sometimes, even though you know that God is calling you to move forward on something in your life, you may feel reluctant to climb out from between those "covers" of familiarity and habit and face that new challenge.  It's even worse when you think there might be a real risk, or a real danger, involved in taking that step.

I'm talking about where I am, I suppose, but I'm sharing this because I believe many of my readers are also facing major changes in their lives right now.  A handful of people in my immediate circle of friends are currently in the midst of big moves--career moves, address changes, etc.  Meanwhile, I've been "spring cleaning" my life for over a month, now, and I feel some major changes in my own career are coming soon.  In fact, these are changes I've been needing for quite some time.

But you know, even the change I need and have prayed for still scares me sometimes.  It's not the new horizon as much as the journey to that new horizon.  Things move so suddenly, when they move, and you never quite feel you have prepared for them enough.

I believe that the "journey" times in our lives are periods of a special kind of testing, to see how well and how faithfully we follow, and to teach us (again) that we can travel without the proverbial "kitchen sink" and still make it there alright.  If God is moving us, He will provide the essentials we need along the way, and prove to us that we don't need anything more than what He generously gives us (Deuteronomy 8:3).  Furthermore, He will take us to a "spacious place" (2 Samuel 22: 20), shielding and protecting us along the way, and establishing us with a special wall of protection when we get there (Psalm 91).

I don't want to drag my feet and complain like the Israelites in the desert, longing for the old familiar tastes of leeks and melons on the shores of the Nile (Numbers 11: 4-6). It is much better, by far, to eat the milk and honey God has prepared at the end of the journey! The old things left behind pale in comparison to what God has planned (Isaiah 43: 18-21).  It is also important to remember that what I get along the way is more than I could have ever thought to ask for (Matthew 7: 9-11).  I'm well-cared for, whether I'm coming or going, and God is looking out for me.

That "fear of the unknown" that scares us at the beginning of change can be combated with "trust in the known," which is the Lord and His provision.  He is faithful.  If you're "journeying" right now in your life, don't forget to trust the God who arranged the journey.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go," (Joshua 1: 9).

Monday, May 6, 2013

A (Controversial) Perspective on Using Your Talents for God

I believe in using my talents for God's service.  This is a common theme in a lot of today's church discourse, and I don't disagree with that.  However, I'm going to say something controversial, here.  Often times, the church is wrong about what individual Christians should be doing in God's service.

Obviously, it is not wrong to try to help people or be charitable.  It is good to do so.  We hear genuine needs every day, and we should care. We are heartless if we don't.

Still, there is a cookie-cutter mentality that has lapped over into the Christian world that has no place among us.

To begin with, there are people who have been told that they should help out at the soup kitchen, or build houses for people, or contribute large sums to their local charities, or go out as missionaries to the far corners of the world.  Unfortunately, they are the kind who can burn boiling water or who can't talk to strangers; they are flabby or uncoordinated, causing them to get hurt when they try to lift a hammer or a heavy board; they are barely middle class themselves, so they don't have much to contribute financially each month; and they are frightened and unequipped for the mission field.  Should they feel guilty?  Are they bad Christians because they are bad at all the typical "Christian" things to do?

I don't believe so.  I know there are readers who will say, "Don't make excuses," and I'm not intending to.  I am just saying that to make my first point: Everyone is talented at something, but not everyone is talented at everything; therefore, everyone should use their talents for God, but since everyone's talents are so varied, they should not all be doing the same things.

Rather than feeling guilty on some level for their failure to measure up to other people's abilities, Christians out there should be considering how their own God-given abilities could best be used.  The Bible compares a church congregation to a body, where each person works as a part, keeping the whole body healthy, and with each part being necessary and placed there for a reason (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27).  Perhaps there are talented individuals out there who have not yet realized that they, too are necessary, even though they haven't found their "niche" to serve quite yet.  They may not realize that they are created by God for a purpose,  perhaps to put "Christian engineering" or "Christian salesman" or "Christian deliveryman" on the map as a new way to serve God while showing His love to our fellow man--doing jobs that no one else could do as effectively.  Maybe they are the only ones in the whole world who can do the job.  They will never know, if they keep comparing themselves to others.

That brings me to another point I wanted to make: Christians shouldn't use the oddness or obscurity of their talents as an excuse to downplay them or refuse to use them.  A person's penchant for armpit orchestra could break the ice with a few laughs, opening doors to share his or her testimony with an audience; a talent for origami could help cheer up an elderly person or a sick child in the hospital; life experience as a parent could help a Christian man or woman mentor a struggling single mom at church or a young man who is trying to get his life back on track.  God can use any talent, since He made every person and saw in advance what each could do (Ephesians 2: 10), but God cannot use a talent if the talent holder knows better than Him what other people need.

Bloom Where God Plants You...
This leads into my last point: Where Christians are is where God can use them best.  Take Christian students, for instance. While they can reach out to the homeless in their towns, they might be best suited to reach out to their fellow students.  The workers at the local shelters cannot attend classes and live in the dorms, eat at the school cafeterias, or gather at places where the other students hang out.  If all of the Christian students feel they can only serve by working at the shelter, there may be thousands of young people who don't benefit from the help God sent Christian students to do on campus. God has placed each person where they are, for a purpose they alone may be able to fulfill (Esther 4: 14), so when the time comes, they had better be there to minister to the need that is there.

I'm sure there is more to be said on this subject, and I invite readers to add their comments to the discussion.  How best would you advise Christians to use their talents for God? Are there any more Scriptural guidelines I have failed to mention?

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Heartbeat from Eternity

No one likes to think about their own mortality, but today, I suppose I am.  I don't want to be morbid or anything like that, but I am glad I am "ready."  Do you know what I mean?

Today, on the way to the post office to drop off some packages, the traffic light changed, signaling that it was time for me to turn left.  In the split second between my foot leaving the brake pedal and
my toe landing on the accelerator, a large SUV ran a red light to turn across my path, inches away from my bumper.  The driver was going so fast, he must have taken the turn on two wheels.  All I could think was, "That was close!"

And then, there was yesterday, when I got news that a business connection I've made, a woman I was only just getting to know, had a massive heart attack and has been hospitalized in a medically-induced coma.  She was having dinner with her husband when it happened.  They were just two days away from leaving on a cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  I hope that she can pull through this, but the prognosis is not good right now.

That grim news made me think of a professor who passed away when I was in college.  He was a very active man, heading the Honors program and also leading the music department.  He ran every day and did lots of charity work.  He even liked to collect and refurbish old pianos that he donated to the university.  In fact, he was helping his son guide one of those pianos on a wheeled dolly when he collapsed suddenly from a fatal heart-attack.  Above all else, he was a kind, generous man, and as far as I knew him, a Christian. Even students who weren't enrolled in his classes felt his absence.

It seems to me that death, just like life, can happen when we've been "making other plans."  It usually comes more suddenly than the people around us would have expected it; in fact, it seems to even sneak up on its victims.  This is why it is necessary to think about it and make plans for our lives with death in mind.

We should use the talents that God gave us in the time allotted to us, instead of wasting our time sowing wild oats and worrying over things that aren't important.  We shouldn't just look at this messed-up life, either.  We should look beyond it, toward eternity.  It's important to die God's friend and not His sworn enemy, because there won't be more chances to change that, later.  This is what I mean by being "ready."

Are you ready to meet God, if you had to do that today?  If you're not, I would say it is time to think about it.  It's not being morbid, either.  It's a dangerous world out there, and circumstances can change in a minute.  We see it on the news every day, unfortunately.  Don't let eternity sneak up on you.

Because time may be short, here's the short and simple way to get your heart right with God:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10: 9, 10 NIV)
If you  need more explanations, I talked a little more about the why and the how of getting your heart right with God here and here, and there are plenty more if you explore my old posts.

I would love to hear from you, so if you have anything to add, you're welcome to leave me a comment. I read every one and share almost every one (I only delete the ones from spammers).