A life lesson learned while roughing it

I just got back from an epic week of camping in Colorado with my parents. We had a fantastic time, and it was so great to just relax. Even though we were completely isolated for the whole week, God still made Himself obvious. Actually, He was probably more obvious than normal because I wasn’t distracted by everything else in my life.

He reminded me of some pretty cool things as I was reading in front of the campfire or listening to the wind in the pines or marveling at the mountain peaks. So this week, I’ll be sharing some of the lessons I learned (and photos I took) when I was out roughing it.

Campfire at Happy Meadows (c) acw 2015

Campfire at Happy Meadows, west of Colorado Springs

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.

Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

My dad always gets the fires started whenever we go camping. In Colorado, you have to buy local wood to burn, but (in case you don’t know anything about starting a fire), you can’t just light the wood. You have to have something to get the first started. Some people use lighter fluid, but we tend to go more toward the old fashioned methods like paper and kindling.

What was interesting to me this time around is watching how rapidly paper and small strips of wood were consumed. It feels dumb to say it, because it’s obvious. Paper burns fast. And while it might provide a flash of momentary heat, when it’s 40 degrees outside, you need something with substance that’s going to burn for a long time.

The verse for today is talking more about items which are symbolic of deeds and achievements–those things that fire won’t consume. If you accomplish something for God, that accomplishment will last forever. In comparison, accomplishing something for yourself is like wood or hay or stubble. It burns up fast and leaves nothing useful behind.

Taking that into account, how does your list of accomplishments stack up? Have you done things in your life that will last for eternity? Or are you just accomplishing things that make life more comfortable for you (or even others) right now? There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in this life exactly. I’m not saying that. But if you really think about it, what matters more?

As Christ-followers, this life isn’t our final destination. We have another life to live beyond this one, and we’ll live that life forever. So isn’t it more wise to be preparing for the life to come with more focus and determination than we give to our temporary lives here? What good is it if you live in a big fancy house on Earth for 80 years and when you get to heaven for all eternity, all you have is a tent with a few cans of Spam?

Do what God says. Put priority on His rules, on His plans, on His directions. Do that first. Then let the other things trickle in later. Maybe it means you’ll have to wear less fashionable clothes or drive an old car or live in a smaller house. Maybe not. But you’ll know for sure that if your life ever starts to burn down, the things that matter–the ones that will last forever–will come out untouched.

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There’s something better on the other side

The light in my upstairs landing burned out a few months ago. A burned out light bulb in the city is one thing. The ambient light from outside often illuminates the inside of a house enough to see by, but out here in the country? Everything is always pitch black, until there’s a full moon.

Burned out light bulbs have always been interesting to me because they don’t look much different from a new light bulb. At least with the old incandescent bulbs, you could shake them to hear if the filament was dislodged. But with the new curlicue bulbs, I haven’t figured out how to look at one and determine if it works or not.

They look like they should work just fine, but when you actually try to use them, they’re broken.

bulbToday’s verse is Hebrews 13:14.

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Have you ever realized how broken our world is? Maybe it looks fine on the outside, but in practical use, nothing works the way it’s supposed to? It’s one thing to know it. It’s something else to experience it, to watch your friends experience it, to see the pain and the suffering it causes.

Just turn on the television. Just listen to the radio. Spend an hour talking to someone at work or at school or at church. Everybody’s broken, but the world is more broken than any of us.

It’s so sad because God designed this world to function in a certain way. He put processes and rules and laws in place when He created it, and while all of those processes and rules and laws are still working, they have to use pieces that are falling apart.

It’s like our own lives, our relationships. Two perfect people would never find themselves on opposite sides. They’d always understand what the other was saying, and they’d never try to hurt each other. But nobody’s perfect. So in this world, our friendships and relationships of all kinds have to be built with imperfect materials.

We’re all insecure. We’re all afraid. We’re all jealous. How do you build a lasting relationship when the base materials you have to use are only good for tearing things apart? Maybe you could build a beautiful home with a horrible foundation, and maybe it will look perfect–but the first storm that comes along will bring it crashing down because it doesn’t work. It was broken from the start.

There are days when I know God can fix anything. There are moments when I believe that God is the restorer and can mend hearts and relationships and families and friendships. And I don’t doubt that. I’ve never doubted that. And I’ve seen Him do miracles more than once.

But is our world really worth fixing? Have you really thought about that? I mean, it would be wonderful if He did, but if you read Scripture, you understand that the way everything is falling apart isn’t a surprise. If you know the Bible, you know this global rebellion against God was coming. Maybe it’s not what God wanted for us, but it’s what has to happen before He can come back.

It’s so tempting to get attached to our lives here because they feel real. The taste of the coffee in my cup, the feel of the sunshine on my face in my upstairs office window, the smell of the apricots blossoming in the orchard. But it’s not real–not by God’s definition. It will all pass away in the end, and if I’m not invested in the things that are real, I’ll have nothing.

This world where we live isn’t our permanent home. It’s nobody’s permanent home. We will all live somewhere in eternity, but there are only two choices. And if you don’t choose one, that means you’re automatically choosing the other.

Jesus is real. Faith is real. Love is real. And the souls of the people around you are real. That’s what you should be investing in. You can spend all your money and all your time working to achieve a status or a goal the world says is admirable, but if God doesn’t say it’s worth it, it’s not.

Don’t get caught up in living in this world. Christ-follower or not, you’re not long for it. Not in comparison to forever.

But don’t be discouraged either. Our world is broken. People are broken. We’re all falling apart physically, emotionally, mentally. Nothing works the way it was supposed to, but that’s because this world isn’t our home. There’s something better on the other side, and that’s worth believing in.