This world isn’t supposed to work

Most days, living is a privilege. Being alive is a gift. But I’m fully aware how blessed I am, and that not everyone can agree on whether life is a blessing or a curse. At least, as far as this life is concerned. A lot of it depends on your perspective.

But something I’ve learned through the years of following Christ is that we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Whether life is fun or not, whether it’s joyous or not, life here isn’t permanent. None of us are staying. I’m not home yet, and neither are you.

dawn-landscape-sky-sunset_1540x1004Today’s verses are Hebrews 11:13-18.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

How many millions and billions of people have died before us? How many people went into eternity before we were even born? The world may have 6 or 7 billion people living on it now, but other people pre-dated us. And the Bible says none of them have ceased to exist. They’ve continued to “live” but their mailing address has changed to one of two places.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is a beautiful tribute to many of the Bible legends we’ve grown up with. It’s a fast, awesome read, and I highly recommend it. And it points out a number of really important facts about the Christ-followers who preceded us.

None of them got to see the answer to God’s promises while they were alive on Earth. They lived their lives for Him, and He took care of them. He guided them. He was their friend. But in this life, they didn’t get to experience what God has promised.

Hebrews 11 is a tribute to Old Testament heroes. We could write a similar tribute to the heroes of the New Testament, and their story would be the same. They followed God with everything they had. Some gave their lives. But they didn’t get to experience all that God promised while they were walking on the Earth.

The same is true for heroes in other time periods too. And if the Lord continues to be patient with our world, it’s the story others will tell about Christ-followers of my generation. We followed Christ, but we didn’t get to see all of His promises fulfilled.

So here’s the question: Do you only do something right because you’ll be reward for it? Do you only maintain a relationship for what you can get out of it? Or is it enough to know what what you’re doing is right and that you get to play a role in a bigger story?

Don’t be frustrated when life doesn’t work out the way you want. Things in this world aren’t supposed to work. It’s broken, remember? And don’t even be frustrated when God’s plan doesn’t go the way you expect. He knows what He’s doing.

God has made promises. And, make no mistake, He’ll keep them all. But as a Christ-follower, we have to willing to accept that we may not see them while we’re alive on Earth. What’s great, though, is that we will see them. We just need to remember that this life isn’t about us and what we want. This life is about Jesus. Sort of like how eternity is about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So make your life about Him and watch what happens.

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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.

Let’s get to work while we still have time

When I’m really busy or loaded down with deadlines, my default is to stop working and play. The more I have to do, the more I want to do nothing. I’m not sure what that is or where it comes from, but it’s one of the weaknesses I’ve noticed about myself. And it’s a pain in the butt.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to do. And the things I’m doing are important. I’m following Jesus with everything I have, writing for Him, working for Him, loving people for Him, trying to live according to His Word. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I feel like doing. It comes down to what I am doing and what I haven’t done.

time-watch-hands-of-a-clock-clock-pointersToday’s verses are Romans 13:11-12.

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

There’s not a lot of time left. I’m not sure how many people are willing to accept that, but the world is getting darker by the moment. If you’re a Christ-follower, you can’t ignore that fact. The longer the world goes on in this state, the more trouble we get into.

This world and our lives here won’t last forever, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that our time is running out. We have a limited span of time to be here before God calls us home, and in the big picture of eternity, our handful of decades on Earth isn’t very long. But God gave it to us for a reason.

You can do a lot in 70 years. Heck, you can do accomplish a lot in 32 years, if you’re willing to work hard and do what God says is right. But it’s not easy. And you run into those days where you don’t want to do anything, where life just feels like you’re running in circles, like you aren’t actually accomplishing anything.

And maybe you’re not. Maybe you really are spinning your wheels, and if that’s the case, you need to stop and think about your situation. Are you really doing what God has called you to do? Or are you just staying put because that’s where you’re comfortable?

Our time here is running out, and God put us on this Earth to work for Him. I know it’s frustrating to be so busy you can’t keep your head above water, but that’s where priorities come into play. That’s where we need to start making the hard choices that will allow us to do the things that matter and let the things that don’t slip away.

What has God called you to do in your life? Are you doing it? If you aren’t, why not?

There’s nothing wrong with resting. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. We all need it from time to time, and it’s important that we take the time we need to recover when we’re tired. But don’t stay there. Don’t keep sitting when you need to be moving. Don’t keep resting when you need to get back to work. We all have jobs to do.

The sunlight is nearly gone, and soon it’ll be too dark to work. So let’s get busy about God’s work now, while we still have the time.

Earth is just a rest stop

When was the last time you were at a rest stop somewhere on a road trip. My family has taken so many road trips over the years, so rest areas are just a normal part of travel. And it’s true, some rest areas (the newer ones) are very comfortable. They have gift shops or information booths staffed with actual people. But here in Kansas, the rest areas aren’t always that nice. Most of the time, there’s just one main building that has restrooms and some overpriced vending machines.

Sure, it would be nice if they were all climate controlled. And it would be even better if the toilets were real, rather than chemical jobs. But it’s just a rest stop. It’s a place to get out of the car for a little bit, but you don’t stay there. You get back in the car and keep on going.

Have you ever thought about how similar that is to the lives we’re living today?

rest_areaToday’s verse is Hebrews 13:14.

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

It’s easy to get caught up in this life because it’s right in front of us. We live it every day, and we experience the troubles that come at us on a regular basis. And it’s tempting to think that this is the way it’s always going to be.

But it’s not. Because Earth is just a rest stop. We’re not sticking around for much longer. Rest stops aren’t designed to be comfortable because you’re not staying there permanently. Like the old song says, “This world isn’t my home. I’m just a’passing through.”

So what does that mean for us? How does that help us get through a difficult day or face an unpleasant situation?

Well, it helps because we remember that this life isn’t all there is. If you follow Christ, you’ve got a much better life coming after this one is over. This little insignificant life on Earth is just the beginning of your eternity, and it’s not even a very good beginning because we can’t experience all the awesome that God has in store for us. So on those difficult days, remember that there’s more to this life than what you can see.

If a rest stop was really comfortable, it would be awfully hard to get back into the car, wouldn’t it? What if they had a coffee bar? What if they had free cookies? What if they offered unlimited tacos? I mean, you could just hole up in the rest area station for the rest of your life and get along just fine, right? Because who wants to get back in that car and keep driving when you can sit around and eat free tacos?

You don’t know what the road ahead holds for you. It might be difficult. It might be worse than your situation is right now. And wouldn’t it just be better to stay put and enjoy the comforts of your luxurious rest stop?

That’s an exaggeration, of course. Although I’ve been to some rest areas that I wouldn’t mind sticking around a bit longer. It usually had to do with the ready availability of ice cream. But on the other hand, I’ve been to some rest areas that I couldn’t wait to leave. They were dirty and broken, and I just wanted to be done with them and leave. And sometimes I wonder if that’s how we’re supposed to see the world.

We need to be here, though. God put us here for a reason, so we need to accept that. But that doesn’t mean we need to get comfortable here. And that absolutely doesn’t mean we need to wish that it would become more comfortable for us. It won’t. What it should make us do is long for our true home more desperately than ever before.

When was the last time you yearned for heaven? Have you ever? Makes you wonder where your priorities are, doesn’t it?

So don’t long for easier times. Don’t wish for smooth sailing. I mean, you can. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for it either. Bet don’t be surprised if you don’t get it, and don’t get it in your head that God is mean. He’s just trying to help us understand that Earth is little more than a rest area on the great adventure we’re on with Him.

 

The unexpected treasures you’ll find past the pearly gates

Do you ever think about what heaven will be like? Sometimes I do. When I stop long enough. Honest, if you don’t think about eternity on a regular basis, you might want to reassess your life’s focus. Christ-followers are supposed to be in the world, yes, but we’re not supposed to be of it, which basically translates to living our lives for eternal things rather than things that will eventually pass away.

That being said, I don’t think about heaven as often as I should. It seems so far away, so impossible to comprehend. How can you think about heaven or even imagine it when it’s going to be so wonderful nobody can grasp it?

Well, I believe sometimes we get glimpses of it. Sometimes I believe God lets us experience overwhelming and abundant joy on Earth so that we can get a tiny taste of what heaven will be like. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, you just have to stop and stand in awe.

It happened Sunday night for me. It wasn’t anything particularly special. Just a big (BIG) group of friends getting together for a hog roast. Friends from all over the place, different backgrounds and different parts of the country. But most of them had one thing in common–we all know Jesus. And there was just something in the air, being reconnected with so many people who I love so dearly–people I don’t get the chance to see on a regular basis.

And I think that’s a taste of what heaven is going to be like. We’re going to be together with the people we love the most. We’re going to be reunited with those who’ve already gone ahead of us in Christ. And we’ll get to be together and tell each other stories of all the amazing miracles God has done in our lives.

Can you even imagine anything better than that? Spending eternity with people you love talking about the crazy awesome stuff God has done?

pearly-gatesToday’s verses are Matthew 6:19-21.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

This is one of those well-known verses that people quote often, but I’m not sure we ever really think about what it means. We get this idea that heaven will be full of treasure. And I’m sure it will be. You’ll walk on streets of gold.

But is gold, gold, and more gold really the treasures that heaven will be full of? Will we even care about gold and wealth and status once we get to heaven? Heaven has a way of changing your priorities.

What’s better than gold? What’s more important than wealth? Go look at that family picture on the shelf. Go read that email from your best friend. Take a look at your coworker at the office.

People.

People are better than gold and more important than wealth and power and status. People are the biggest treasure you can find, an inexhaustible source of joy.

Sure that hog roast at my friends’ house was great fun, but how much fun would it have been if a few of us showed up with our piles of gold and sat around talking about them? I don’t know about you, but talking about money exhausts me. I’d much rather hear a story about how God did something great for a friend instead.

And that’s the point. Don’t get wrapped up in what the world says you have to have. Don’t get focused on achieving wealth and status and power and forget that the people around you are worth much much more than any paycheck you can ever earn.

Heaven will be full of treasures, but they won’t be the treasures the world expects.

My God isn’t buried in a tomb somewhere

I spent about an hour wandering around Westminster Abbey in Central London yesterday. I knew that it was the burial place of many famous people, but it didn’t really set in until I found myself in the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

There’s something surreal about standing in a place where someone you’ve studied throughout school is buried. As I walked from tomb to tomb, from Henry VII to Edward II and Richard II, I thought about all the histories I learned in school, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those famous people had lived accumulating wealth and power and status only to lose it when they lost their lives.

And all I could think about was how thankful I am that God doesn’t live in a stone, cold church somewhere, entombed like the historical figures of ages past. God is alive today and moving in hearts and changing people and the world.

A tomb in Carlisle, Cathedral

A tomb in Carlisle, Cathedral

Today’s verse is 1 John 4:13.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

God is alive, and He’s everywhere. He’s in our lives. He’s in our homes. He’s in our churches. Whether we recognize it or not. But He also lives in the hearts of those who’ve chosen to follow Jesus.

We build great monuments to honor Him, and that’s great. But He doesn’t live there. He lives in us.

Great men and women from history have died. Famous historical figures have passed away. All the people we know and admire in today’s world will eventually die too. But God will never die. He never changes. And He never fails.

So remember that the next time you’re in a cemetery. Remember that the next time you’re in a church. Remember that the next time someone you admire passes.

We may honor the Lord with our buildings, but don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that He’s buried there. He was buried, but He walked out of the grave three days later. And He’s still alive today.

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.