The Tick — that large, blue-skinned cartoon/comic/live-action hero from the 90s — once said, "You know... I've heard the smarter you are, the more wrinkly your brain. And your guys' brains must be the wrinkliest. Oh, sure, ordinary Joes like me and Arthur here, maybe our brains are a little on the smooth side. But you don't have to be a genius to know that evil is bad. And good isn't."
Even if you don't find the humor in his way of speaking, you'd have to agree, you don't have to be a genius to know that evil is bad, and that good is, well, good. The question for most of us isn't whether good is good, it's whether we act as if we believe it really is good. Or, more to the point, as Christians do we believe we have THE good. One way we can figure this out is through an analogy that's familiar for us, one we often share in bible studies. It's a great one to reflect on from time to time.
If you had a cure for a terminal disease, or knew what could heal someone dying from cancer, or maybe even had a 100% affective solution for world hunger, would you keep it to yourself? Better yet, when you talked about it, would you share it with a bored, scared, or hesitant approach? Or would you be passionate, excited, and telling it to everyone you could, even seeking out those who needed it? Wouldn't you also be pretty adamant in sharing it the way you knew it worked and closed-minded to alternatives you knew would fail?
When it comes to sharing the Gospel with someone and talking about Christ in our conversations, we have to believe that He is indeed the answer; we have to believe that Christ is in fact the way; we have to believe that there is indeed a God. If we don't believe those things, if we don't believe that we have the only solutions to the problems, the only cure to the cancer that plagues the world called sin, we'll be hesitant. That's when we'll be gun-shy and talk ourselves out of sharing.
If we believe that we have the way, not that we are the way, but that we know the way people need to go, the path they need to follow, a direction to point them in, we'll speak with confidence. When people know they have the final and absolute answer to a life and death situation, they are willing to argue passionately for what they believe, because they believe it is the solution. People this confident are sometimes even deemed as arrogant, close minded, or judgmental because of how narrow their answer is. But if they're right, how can they speak of anything else? Wouldn't a compromise from the solution be a disservice to everyone?
We too, if we doubt, or we act as if maybe there is another way, that it's not a big deal if people reject the truth, that we're okay with disagreeing, what good are we? Who wants to come with somebody who tells you they have the truth, then acts like, "Well, I guess maybe you're right, maybe there is another way. I'm just pretty sure this is right, but maybe not... It's cool. You do your thing and I'll do mine." If we doubt, overcoming our nerves is a big problem, but it's not the biggest. If you really think about it, if we doubt, the Gospel is dead. If the Apostles had been passive aggressive, doubt-ridden, and so open-minded their convictions fell out of the back of their heads, and they had preached Jesus as a "good idea", not the only solution, would the early church even have survived? We all know the answer to that.
We say we believe that we have the answers. When you look at your life, do you act as if you believe what you say you believe? And if you're struggling with belief, you're not alone, but don't let it linger. Dig deeper. Tackle the areas you still aren't solid in. Take an Apologetics course. Take a Seminary class. Get some books or supplemental materials, or seek time with someone who is strong in an area you feel weak. Dig into the scriptures as often as you can, study out areas that excite you or boggle you; get that big picture. Spend time with people and in places you get to see God in action. Do what you have to do to strengthen your walk and get that next level of confidence.
Evil is bad and good isn't. Preach it like you mean it because the world depends on it.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — JOHN 1:1-5- ESV
Superheroes are all the rage these days, with new comic-based movies eruprting onto the big screen every week it seems. Since we can pretty much discuss whatever we want in a 'C, I figure why not take a spin as a superhero this week? We all know you've had your own hero name and identity picked out for years, so you may as well embrace it for a few minutes and have some fun.
As you know, your basic responsibilities when you become a superhero are to save and protect others from danger. Well, that and look amazing in your customized costume. (With or without shoulderpads and spandex depending on which decade you're a fan of.) Regardless of your powers, today you find yourself hanging out in your super-secret layer with your "Bat-Phone" next to you in case the Mayor calls with an emergency. (Don't worry, it's a cellphone, not a corded wonder, but it is still red.) As usual, it goes off right as you sit down to enjoy a heaping bowl of your favorite cereal, one based on your very own cartoon.
Turns out there's a house on fire in the seventh district, and two small children are trapped upstairs. The local fire department is occupied with another warehouse fire on the other side of the city, so it's up to you. What do you do? You race over there, right? Knowing every second counts, you don't exactly meander either, do you? Of course not! As a hero, this is what you signed up for, to serve, protect, and save no matter what time of day, or what you're currently involved in, even if it means wasting a bowl of your ludicrously delicisous cereal. That is, of course, if you signed up for sincere reasons and/or still believe in the cause.
If you signed up for the movie deals, action figure lines based on your likeness, and obsessed fanbase, you may second guess the more dangerous situations and hesitate a bit, not wanting to risk death or injury and thus sacrifice everything you've aquired. Or if you take your gifts and position for granted and let yourself get out of shape physically and mentally, relying on special affects and post production to make you look good, you may not actually try very hard when an emergency arrises. Perhaps this disillusionment will result in you trying to finish your dinner first before answering a call, or maybe finding yourself aggrivated at the hours you keep and the constant interruption. Even worse, what if you do want to leap into action, but your poor conditioning leaves you unable to do what your heart desires and what you agreed to live for when you became a superhero?
Obviously, we know being a superhero is far from easy. You're always on duty, others are deliberately out to get you, you face constant scrutiny from people's perception, and nothing less than full self-sacrifice will be accepted. But when lives are on the line, if you're in a position to make a difference, wouldn't you still take the gig?
The parallels to Christianity are obvious. Maybe we don't have kids dressing up as us for Halloween, we can't leap buildings in a single bound, and perhaps we don't look intimidating in a mask or shoot lasers from our fingers, but rain or shine, day or night, we are always in a position to save lives. People do analyze what we do, opposition is everywhere, the worst villain of them all is gunning for us at every turn, and nothing less than a full sacrifice will make much of a dent in the corruption we're entrenched in every day. Yet, who among us doesn't desire to rise to the occasion for the sake of those in need?
Perhaps as a fun excersize this week, think of your Christianity in the form of a superhero's life. Check to see where your heart is, your motives are, if you have any weaknesses or struggles currently and how you're handling oppostion. Are you in shape and fit, capable of doing what you became a Christian to do, or are you sucking wind and feeling lethargic, maybe even indifferent when you get a distress call?
There are lives at stake everywhere we go. Let's rise to the occasion because at the end of the day, I cannot think of anyone who hasn't wanted to be a superhero, but it does beg the question: do we view our Christianity in the same way?
Only let us live up to what we have already attained.17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! — PHILIPPIANS 3:16-4:1 - NIV
Dad's and mom's roles in the family certainly have overlap, but one thing many of us have probably seen is how dads tend to be a bit more eager to craft their son or daughter into a being a great athelete, or skilled in a trade, or just a hard worker like they were growing up. Some dads even get a bit too eager, as I'm sure we've all seen little three-year-old Timmy, holding a glove twice his size, catching a fast ball with his forehead because dad got a little over zealous. Or heard little Tammy-Linn crying in her mom's arms after dad refused to let her win at volleyball, and instead spiked the ball for a 21-0 domination.
Statistically speaking, though, an involved father makes all the difference for a child. If you haven't ever looked into or heard the stats for teen-pregnency, sexual activity, incarceration, disobedience, aggressive behavior, emotional instability and other areas of concern, with their relation to children raised without fathers, I encourage you to take a look. It's a frightening and alarming outcome when a dad isn't around, and their link to tragic lifestyles is heartbreaking.
God, always being ahead of the curve (as we discussed last week), knows this and has always been an involved Father. In Genesis we see Him right there, spending time with Adam and Eve, His first kids. Then we see all through the OT He interacts with us through various methods including angels, prophets and even speaking directly. In the NT Jesus came down to give us some hands on training, telling us He and His Father are one, so if we've seen Him, we've seen the Father (John 14). After that He has interacted through the Holy Spirit, written revelation, and our spiritual family. No, He has never left us alone and has throughout history sought to spend time with us, training us and encouraging us to be something far better than a star athlete, skilled worker, or any other vocational wiz.
And, like we see far too often in homes without earthly fathers, homes without our Spiritual Father are in shambles. Who in their own life hasn't experienced what happens when they aren't spending time with God, their Dad? Time with Him is vital to our spiritual survival and has a direct and immediate effects on our physical life as well. The difference between these two worlds of missing dads, though, is that God never leaves us. He's always there, waiting every step of the way. Despite His perfect Fatherly nature, we far too often chose to leave the house and go "do our thing." Then what happens next is something stat keepers would be reluctant to track, but a quick glance at the news will confirm what a life without genuine time with God will look like.
So how about us? Are we spending time with our Father? He has the perfect schedule. He is never too busy. He has the perfect temperament and is perhaps the finest encourager and disciplinarian this world has ever known. Bill Cosby was admittedly pretty good, but God even edges him out. If you aren't spending time with Dad, please start. A life without your Father is a life you'll forever regret.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.. — 2 PETER 3:9 - ESV
Throughout our country's history, men and women have come together for various reasons to serve in our nation's military. Regardless of their own personal goals, aspirations, agendas, or reasons for joining, they all agreed to the same price: that they lay their life down if the need arose. Monday was the holiday upon which we took time to remember those that paid that terrible price, which has sadly happened time and time again.
We know that in Luke chapter 14, starting in verse 26, Jesus laid out the price of following Him. The cost? Everything we have. He tells us it is a total commitment, echoing His answer to which command is the greatest — loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
In Luke 13 when asked if only a few would make it in the end, Jesus tells us to "make every effort to enter through the narrow door." Again, it's not a calling for those who are only partially committed or not fully convinced of the cause, or dedicated to the One leading the charge. Christianity is an all-in form of service, and like our military leaders, Jesus never minced words or downplayed just how serious our decision to follow Him is. There is indeed a price, a cost, a stake involved.
To quote Roger Chambers, who I will borrow heavily from to make the point today, when discussing the character of Abraham's faith, he says this. "Abraham put something on the alter he could not afford to lose if he was wrong." If God was going to make him the father of a great nation, Isaac, whom he was about to sacrifice, would have to live. And if your walk, your Christianity, has never been very emotional, you've never quite figured out why some in the fellowship get so worked up and passionate about sin, about being involved in the activities of the Body, in evangelism, in serving, in loving, in being righteous, in taking ownership of your own walk with God, in being sacrificial and open to advice, and being willing to give up a freedom for the sake of another's conscience, then I will dare to say perhaps you've never done what Abraham did; maybe you've never put something on the alter that you can't afford to lose. Maybe you've never fully committed. Maybe you are still not loving God with ALL your heart, ALL your mind, ALL your soul, and ALL your strength.
See, when we're all in and our life is on the line, the stakes are too high NOT to be passionate. If we're playing with house money, it's easy to be disconnected. If we're playing with our livelihood, and a loss would be the destruction of our life, it's no longer a game, it's everything to us.
So here's the question, if Heaven were to have their own memorial service, one dedicated to those who have paid the price in full for being a soldier of Christ, would you be remembered? I only ask because one of the most sobering questions in my mind is the one Jesus Himself asked.
...when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? — LUKE 18:8b - NASB
For those of us that live in the city, it's sometimes easy to forget just how incredible the night sky can look once you get outside the city lights. It's as if the atmosphere cracked open and you can peer straight into space. That clarity and the sheer quantity of stars is also probably why when we city folk see a few shooting stars and "moving"s stars (AKA satellites), we freak out and think Armageddon is upon because the sky is falling. So if you haven't been outside the city or stargazed in a while, don't freak out, you'll just ruin the moment for everyone else.
The big reason, obviously, a night sky looks faint while in the city and almost like the stars have disappeared, is from all the light around. Buildings, street lights, houses, reflective surfaces for the moonlight, they all add up to literally dampen the darkness. The bigger the city, the brighter it is at night.
If you've ever driven at night in the city you've noticed this. It's dark, but you can still see pretty far down a road. Try that out in the boonies at 1:00am and tell me how far you can see. This weekend on our way back from camping, Donovan and I couldn't see 50 feet. It was like driving in fog, only there was no fog, just a wall of pitch black nothingness. I won't say if we cried or not, or called our loved ones to tell them goodbye, but I will say it was rather unnerving and alarming. Deer or other animals and obstacles could have easily appeared with very little forewarning, and if we weren't alert, it could have ended tragically.
Dark and light take an even more interesting turn when you think about a room at night. If you kick on the light, you have to put forth effort to get back into darkness. You have to crawl under the covers, slide under your bed, climb into your closet or find some nook to stow away in. You can't be out where you would normally, you have to literally hide from that light.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. — Genesis 1:3-4 ESV
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.… 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. — John 1:4-5, 9 ESV
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” — John 3:19-21 ESV
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. — 1 John 3:5-7 ESV
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. — Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
If there's darkness in our life, there are some pretty easy solutions. If we get close to God who is light, He will expose that sin in our life. As Christians we're supposed to be in Christ, in whom is the light, and if we're in the light, it's obviously impossible to be in darkness unless we get out of Christ.
If we're in our scriptures, we're sharp and able to cut through those sinful situations. The truth is vibrant and obvious. But when our study is weak and our sword is dull, our light gets dimmer and dimmer and doesn't shed as much light on the situations in our lives. It becomes harder to discern between sin and not sin and we start justifying behaviors.
We need to be around one another as well. We are little lights, we are that city. If we're there with each other, we'll be shining light on one another. We'll be asking questions and staying involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters which helps cut down on a lot of sin. It forces those who want to remain in sin to put forth effort to climb back under that bed, which is hard to do when you're around a lot of light. Hopefully we're proactive in keeping in the light and being open and honest about our struggles, regardless of how much others are "prodding", though. A great way to help yourself is staying near those lights. Too much time alone is often bad for a Christian.
Are you in Christ? Are you near God? Are you in your scriptures? Who in the fellowship are you spending time with? Are you with the Body of lights when they gather? The light only shines in certain places and you can hide from it if you want to. Take some time to look around your spiritual house today, are the lights on?
Believe it or not, you are in control of your life. Not Big Brother, not your Mommy, not your terrible two-year old, YOU. Right now you can do whatever you want. If you want to get up, jump on your desk and scream, "Cockroach!"you can. If you don't want to finish reading this 'C, you don't have to. If you want to drive your car blind-folded from the backseat on your way home from work today, it's your choice. If you want to do a back-flip off your roof into akiddy pool filled with sardines, who's to stop you? I am not saying these are good choices, or that they won't have consequences, but they are yours to make. And maybe I'm off on this, but I sometimes see Christians struggling, self included, with one important thing at the very core of their walk: choice.
I see brothers and sisters who don't have much joy in their walk, who don't delight in doing the things Christ has asked of us, and who give up easily on — or simply fight against — decisions to spend time with God, serve someone else, refrain from sin, or do any number of other things that we can clearly see in scripture are ways to be obedient, to be loving, to be wise, to be mature, and to demonstrate our love for God. And every one of those things all start with a choice. It's not just any choice, though, it's one we are asked to make each and every day for our Lord.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. - JOHN 14:15 NASB
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. - 1 JOHN 2:3-6 NASB
How many of us hear "obey" and think, "happy, willful choices?" I personally tend to think, "I must, no options, punishment if I don't." And the word "command" may even make our skin bristle at its implications. Yet, there they are, at the core of our love for God. John even said "the love of God has been perfected in whoever keeps His word." Perhaps this is where some of those struggles with choice come from, when we don't feel like choice is a choice.
When we choose to do something, we can commit to it, we can fight for it, and we can enjoy it. When we make a choice we can be at peace to move forward in a certain direction because we have decided that's what we're going to do and we're going to do it to the best of our ability. But if a choice doesn't feel like a choice, for whatever reason(s), it suddenly can become much harder to put effort into that decision. It may even feel like more of a mandate or obligation, and if persecutions or trials or patience are needed to complete that "choice", we may find ourselves not trying very hard, or perhaps even giving up completely on it. Ultimately it wasn't what we had committed our hearts and mind to do, and so maybe it was a choice, but it wasn't the one we really wanted. Who fights hard for something they don't want?
This aspect to our human nature presents an issue then because if we're struggling to make those little choices, or the big ones, or both in obedience, if our walks are becoming begrudging headaches or never-ending "do I have to?" moments in our mind, loving God now gets harder and harder. Our walks become long and arduous, taxing to our soul, and feel nothing like love. How will we find contentment if our Christianity feels like forced labor? I would suggest if we find ourselves like this, we are in dire need of reestablishing our relationship with God and returning to our first love.
I am not saying perfect and true love for God will mean we'll always be excited to do everything He asks us, or that we'll be totally and instantly gung-ho about it. Jesus knew God better than we ever can, and yet even He struggled in the garden with what He knew to be God's will for His life. He even prayed He wouldn't have to do it. But ultimately Jesus' love for God led Him to obedience, and so should our love. So, don't doubt the sincerity of your love for God if you have a moment (or more) where others don't have to repair the holes in their walls from where you gleefully bounced through them on your way to do God's work. However, if the majority of what Jesus has asked us to do in response to His sacrifice is almost always met with a struggle or a fight or requires a huge pep-talk in your mind, may I suggest you spend some very serious time getting to know God and His beloved Son better.
When we struggle with something, we tend to give up. And if we give up on our walk, Satan wins, God looses a child, and His family is now left more exposed to Satan's attacks with one more protector out of the way. We cannot give up. We must find ways to ensure that our walk remains a choice we can believe in, to fight for, to want to make each and every day. It is a choice, but the question is, do you still think so?
Would you ever walk into a McDonald's and expect to be able to get a Whopper? Have you ever watched an episode of The A-Team or Dukes of Hazzard and honestly expected to see a good plot? Would you challenge Bill Gates to a money counting contest and expect to outlast him? If you stayed up three days straight, would you expect to feel fresh, rested, and coherent? Obviously not. Three days of no rest should more likely result in us expecting to either fall asleep standing up while packing our lunch, or be found having a tea party with our a trashcan we now think is a new neighbor that just moved into town. Appropriate expectations help keep us safe, happy, and stable in life, and that was the topic last Sunday at a men's meeting I attended. A passage brought up for discussion was from Isaiah 40, and a few verses in particular prompted a fair amount of the total conversation.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
ISAIAH 40:27 - ESV
Many of us have seen this mindset from others and likely faced it ourselves at one time or another. (Or maybe many times.) "Why is my life the way it is, why did this happen, or that happen, why didn't my plan work out how I'd expected, why isn't God paying attention to me, etc." We often tend to question things when life takes rough turns, twists, and dives. Questions like that can be healthy, but are often not the result of deep, personal reflection.
Sometimes they come from the comparison game. We feel like we're doing more than so-and-so, or we're more committed than someone else, or just as committed yet their life seems more blessed than ours, or blessed in a way we really want. These comparisons can make us feel God's love is disproportionate, or unfair, or unjust. Sometimes these questions come from a similar mindset/heart where we feel like we deserve something from God because we've been doing a certain, or many certain, things in the kingdom. Maybe we've been giving up time or energy or money or resources or something, and thus we fee like we've earned or have the right to some reward. There are other reasons that can lead us to ask such questions, but ultimately many simply boil down to false expectations and/or a poor understanding of God.
What is it you expect from God? How do you expect Him to act? And more importantly, why do you expect Him to act that way? Where do these expectations come from? Is it something you've read in scripture? Is it something you've heard others say? Is it something you've just gleaned from your time in life, how you think people interact, and what you assume based on what you've seen in other Christian's lives? If it's not something you've actually read or studied, there's a chance, no matter who you or where you learned it from, it may not be completely accurate. Especially since we have this habit of communicating through paraphrasing more than direct quoting, which then gets paraphrased with each subsequent person, and before you know it we're quite a bit off from the original statement and likely even further off base from the truth.
Even if we do look things up, there's no guarantee we'll have a perfect understanding. God isn't us after all, and His word certainly takes time to grasp, but you stand a far better chance of having an accurate understanding when you're diligently studying something out verses just picking up, assuming, or taking others thoughts at face value. It's a great idea to figure out what to expect of God for yourself, (at least as much as anyone can ever figure that out, of course.) Otherwise, you're bound to just be tossed to and fro like it says in James 1. If you don't know what to expect you're just a roller coaster. You doubt and worry and wonder, whereas when you have a more biblical sound understanding of what God has actually promised, you'll be much more stable in all your ways. And the cool thing about God is that He blows away our expectations time and time again.
Think of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Those guys knew God could save them from the furnace, and seemed to expect God to save them, but they also seemed to leave room in their hearts if He did not. It's as if they said, "Hey, God hasn't promised us He's going to do this. So, though we expect Him to do this, if He doesn't, it's not going to shake us, it's not going to derail our faith, it's not going to put us under, we're not going to become weak, and crumbly, and doubt. He is not going to disappoint us because He didn't do what we wanted Him to do."
Can you say the same thing? If you find your faith shaken easily, or yourself in these types of mental battles often, perhaps it's time you learn more about God from Him, rather than from the world around you.
Why is that people neglect to tell you they're sick enough to need quarantining until after you've spent considerable time in their close proximity? Or why do others immediately tell you, "Man, I am so sick; I really shouldn't be here, *hack *hack *cough," and then storm your personal space like they're taking the beaches of Normandy? I'm sure we've all had a busy few weeks dodging the never ending stream of coworkers with runny noses, soar throats, and some who have even been giving their lunches back. (And I don't mean returning it to where they purchased it.) It's cold and flu season, and this year has been no exception to the high number of victims. But all this illness has got me thinking...
When we're physically ill, whether it be some sort of viral issue, an unknown physical ailment, or really anything that involves our body not working properly, we seek out a physician to help us. Many of us, without much prodding or coercion, see something is wrong, recognize we don't want it to stay that way, and then voluntarily head to where we know we can get help. Not always, and pride certainly plays a role for how far or how long or how bad something has to get before we go, but most will eventually get help. Many others go immediately, and you could even argue some almost go too far with this idea and could benefit from being a bit tougher rather than running to a doctor for every sniffle and pain. (Excuse me a moment while I resist the urge to jump on a soap box... deep breath, deep breath... Okay. I'm better.)
Once we're at the doctors, even some of the more stubborn of us will listen and apply whatever medication, treatment, surgery, or advice given to us to fix or cure their ailment. Again, there are exceptions, but I would speculate that far more people heed their doctor's advice, get the prescription, have the treatment, etc, than blatantly ignore it. (Except maybe in long term life changes like dietary or smoking type things. But I'm trying to make a point here, so stop with all these rebuttals!)
Why is it then, that when we have issues in our lives from sin, or bad habits, or quirks and tendencies that lead to frustration with ourselves, hurt others, or other struggles that rob of us our joy, we see it, but we don't seek out help? Why do we try to justify it, or bury it, or ignore it, or pretend it's not that bad? Why are we so reluctant to get help? To "go to the doctor", if you will. Why aren't we willing to seek someone out who will talk through all the factors and variables in our lives that could be contributing factors, and to sit patiently as they ask questions and maybe run "tests"? Physically, we're okay with that. We spend the money, we go through poking and prodding, we share embarrassing and often gross issues with near-strangers, give enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources, and make great sacrifices, all because we want to be cured. We believe they can help us, and so because we don't like whatever it is that's bothering us or hindering us, and we want it gone so badly, we'll do what's necessary.
Spiritually, are we the same? Or do we get frustrated and upset when there are lots of questions about us, when others take an interest in our life? Do we bury or ignore our problems? Do we drag our feet and have to wait until something is so big and bad and unbearable in our life we can no longer avoid it before we'll get help? We know God detests the proud and cannot help those who won't accept His help or acknowledge they need it, so ask yourself, are you being proud in an area of your life right now? Are you seeking out help for your emotional, spiritual, mental, and lifestyle ailments? Or are you coming up with excuses of why you still haven't "gone to the doctor"?
Sometimes the answers are painful. Sometimes it will require work and effort and major changes to our lives. But if the result is to be healthy again, to be cured, why on earth wouldn't we seek it out? Let us not forget that in the case of our spirituality, it's not just a lifetime of discomfort we're looking at if we don't get help, it's eternal damnation. If that's not a reason to seek help from a qualified individual, I don't know what is. And praise God His help is abundant, ready, willing, and comes in, among other things, a fantastic family package. God offers the best healthcare around, we just have to be willing to listen to the prognosis.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” — Jesus Christ
As if last-minute Christmas shopping wasn't stressful enough, now we have to somehow find time for it while preparing for the end of the world too. Honestly, did you ever think you'd be getting ready for your second, (third depending on which Harold Camping prophesy you believe) Armageddon in a little over a year and a half? I hope next year doomsday prophesies aren't so trendy. After all, how many End Of The World outfits can a guy pick out? You can only look that good so many times before you just stop caring. This time, I might do sweat pants and a hoodie. I'm going in comfort, people, not style. Ah, who am I kidding. I wouldn't be caught living in sweat pants, let alone dead.
Speaking of the end of the world, though, if there's one thing that I can say with absolute certainty (and I realize you should be careful about being "absolute"), it is that no matter how amazing the person or the theory or the concept or the theology is, you will never know when Jesus is coming back.
Well... except at the very moment He does, of course. But that hardly qualifies as a prophesy. That's more of a "Hey, look over there!" moment. From scripture you can make a very solid argument about "not knowing when", the most common one coming from Matthew 24. Though, and this should be no surprise to you, there are plenty who have other theories and interpretations of that and similar passages and their meanings, so even then you may not convince everyone.
For me, though, even if you don't use a specific passage, one simple question with a little thought should reveal why we will never know when Jesus is coming back. It's pretty simple, if we knew when He was going to return, how would people behave? If we had some sign to let us know it was about to happen, how would we handle it?
For any of us who have ever had a deadline, or an upcoming exam or test, or were left home alone while our parents went somewhere, or have done anything where we knew specifically the latest point at which we could do it, we've most likely seen in us that we often wait till the last minute to do it. Not everyone, but the vast majority of people I know put things off for one reason or another until close to the end, if not right before. Why would we assume it would be any different when it comes to our Christianity? In fact, being a Christian is often very difficult, so I may be even more inclined to slack off or not give a full effort until the final day, if I knew that was an option.
I don't believe that we do that intentionally in every case; many things I enjoy and look forward to doing I will put off at times, too. I'm lazy. I shy away from hard work. Sometimes there's something more pressing that has a closer deadline, so I'll do that first, then focus on ____. There are tons of reasons why it happens, but the end result is almost always the same: waiting till the last minute.
God needs us ready at all times. He desires for the world to be saved which means Christians have to be about His business as soon and as often as they can, to give as many people a chance at being saved as possible. He desires those followers who have Him as a priority in their life, and if He told us when He'd be back, even some of His most dedicated followers may slack off from time to time. or be tempted to downgrade His importance in their daily activities, thinking they "always have tomorrow."
Probably one of the best ways to make sure you're always ready is to keep developing a great understanding of God by cultivating your relationship with Him through study of His scripture, prayer, meditation, and spending time with His body, your brothers and sisters. Allowing Him to refine us results in us becoming more like Jesus. And the more we become like Christ, the more "being ready" won't be an issue because to be like Christ, is to be ready. It's just your natural state, which should be a very peaceful style of life.
As you get ready for the end of the world this Friday, don't let it, or any other similar prophesy, stress you out. No one knows when Jesus is coming back, so let's not get all worked up about it. Use crazy theories like this instead to be a healthy reminder of how we are to be prepare every single day. Take some time to look at your life and see how prepared you are for the return of our King. Forget, Friday, are you ready to go right now? When you can answer yes to that, you'll find that peace that surpasses understanding that God promised us.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-6 ESV
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober
I know they say it's not the turkey necessarily that puts people to sleep after a Thanksgiving meal, and instead it's more the sheer quantity of food we eat... but is anyone else still feeling the effects of their post-Thanksgiving, cranberry, mashed potato, turkey drenched in gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing filled, pumpkin pie covered in cool whip washed down with fresh cookies and hot chocolate while watching football induced super feast coma of sluggishly lethargic haze promoting laziness? Just that sentence alone may have finished off any remaining energy I have. (As proven by how I didn't have enough left to put in all the necessary commas and hyphens.)
I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I am beginning to suspect that Thanksgiving feasts were created by women to put their husbands into a state of uncaring, un-energetic mush for the next few days, that way they can go shopping without interruption. Why else would there be a day in which stores open up at absurd hours of the night while requiring mass amounts of energy just to stay alive so as to not be run over by the rabid crowds, directly following a meal so large men eat themselves into hibernation and refuse to move for the next three days? If that's not a plot to shop, I don't know what is.
The good thing about meals this big, though, is the leftovers. Given how much time we've spent with the Beatitudes, there was bound to be a bit more to say. So, for today, I'd like to focus on some left-over thoughts about them.
They begin with us being lost sinners, and end with us as saved Christians. The glue holding it all together is belief. That is the only thing that could compel us to live out such a high calling and remain true to Jesus' teachings once the world reacts negatively to our lifestyle.
The Beatitudes are a process, a transformation, a journey for every Christian to make. They give us a pledge to live by: "I am lost without You and accept responsibility for my behavior; I am saddened by my decisions to live contrary to Your will; You are now in charge, not me; I want what You want; I will give unconditionally to all what You have given me; I intend only to help and love; I will share with others the hope and peace You alone provide; and You are more important to me than anything else in this world, regardless of what comes my way."
They are also an extraordinary statement of happiness: "I will be welcomed into the Church and Body of Christ; I will find lasting comfort; I get to inherit the eternal promise; I will be deeply satisfied; my sins will be pardoned; I will see God and experience creation as He intended it; I get to become His child; and I will enter into Heaven."
When we internalize and understand these basic principals and why Christ called those who live by them blessed, we will realize circumstances no longer dictate our happiness. We'll have joy, a lasting satisfaction which is not based on surroundings, or people, or circumstances, but is instead internal and in this case, eternal. Have you ever met a humble, compassionate, well trained, above reproach, relateable, innocent-hearted, peace-filled person whose only fault is that they may be too good to be true, who wasn't happy? Content? A joy to be around? I doubt it.
The Beatitudes are truly just that, attitudes we should be. Embrace them, understand them, use them. Then you too will be happy and blessed as your life bears fruit in abundance.
MATTHEW 5:3-10 ESV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.