Archive for December, 2009
“Must, must, must – all of us get in our minds that this world is not our home, and that life, at best, is transitory.”
The email from a friend of forty years was prompted by his just finding out that another long time friend was diagnosed with cancer and the future was clouded at best. Things change when we realize our time is short. Oh, I know we cavalierly say that we’re all terminal, it’s just a matter of when we die not if. Yet, bravado usually is short lived when the real end is near.
As believers in an Almighty God we mentally, sometimes verbally, and even on rare occasions orally acknowledge the faith we confidently hope to see His face in heaven as promised in Revelation 22:4.
Yet we live our lives as if our earthly existence is the only place we’ll ever live. We are supposed to be in the world but not of the world. As followers of the Messiah, we are to be different, with our focus on heaven. Not on a car, a job, or a house in the “good” neighborhood.
I am reminded of the words Albert Brumley penned in 1937:
This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
The images of being pilgrims, strangers, wanderers in this world are in both the Old and New Testaments. That the journey is not complete until we are with Jehovah Raffa as described in Revelation 21. So what about the here and now? How do we exist on this side of Heaven? The words of Jesus reverberate through the centuries: “I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” John 17: 14-15.
It seems most opportune that as a new year begins, we must recalibrate our perspectives and live as if we truly believe that “life, at best, is transitory” and being with God is where we want to live.
So how do we recalibrate? How do you prepare to be a pilgrim in a land that is not your home? What does that really mean? Yeah I got the questions, it’s the answers that keep me searching. Let me know what you think.
What a mixed bag of emotions is Christmas in our society!
For some, it’s a time of giving and getting, a time to spend more money than should be spent to buy things that nobody really needs. For others, it’s a time of quiet religious reflection.
For some, Christmas is a special, family time, sharing precious hours with those that we care about. For others, it’s a time of loneliness and hurt.
For some, Christmas is a deeply significant time to remember the birth of Jesus and reflect on the meaning of his coming to earth. For others, it is merely another day, sharing space in the holiday season with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day.
For some, Christmas is a desperately needed time to sell goods and make one last bit of profit in a difficult year. For others, it’s a time to protest the religious misconceptions that abound in this celebration.
With sentiments like these vying with one another for the place of prominence in our thinking, it’s easy for us to feel more than a bit overwhelmed. If you’re feeling swept away, let me offer some ancient words of wisdom:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:6-9).
In the maelstrom of emotion during this holiday season, let God surround you with his peace. Cast all of your worries on him and focus on the things that will truly bring you peace.
May there be peace on earth during these coming days and months, and may there be peace in your life.
It’s that time of year — the time to make my list of presents to buy. I have no trouble with who I want to remember with a gift. I just have trouble knowing what to give. Trying to be helpful, someone suggested I start by remembering the best gifts I ever received and see what they had in common. I thought about it and at first did not see a connection.
I don’t remember the gifts, but I do remember how excited I would get when our grown daughter would come over and stay with us at Christmas… even though she had her own place. I do remember that last year, my wife and daughter-in-law gave my son and me the fishing trip of a lifetime. I do remember that one of the couples in our small group has the group over for a fancy dinner every year around Christmas.
Then it dawned on me. What I loved about these gifts was “who” not “what”. My best Christmas memories are of family and friends. It is being together to open the gifts. It is the meals together. It is watching the kids, and now the grandkids, playing together. It’s seeing my parents and my in-laws watching the fourth generation growing up. That’s the part of Christmas I wish could never end.
That is also what I love about being a Christian. It’s the people. It’s not church buildings, or ministry programs. It is belonging to a family, a community, a fellowship. Programs end and buildings collapse in time. But the people in my church family never end. We are together… forever.
If you have thought Christmas is just about gifts, you may be disappointed. If you think church is just about the buildings and the programs, you will be disappointed. Because real community, real family, is not found in presents and programs. Community and family are about the people.
To illustrate the mixed-up values of his day, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard told a modern day parable about thieves who broke into a jewelry store at night. Instead of stealing anything, they merely switched the price tags, putting high-value tickets on costume jewelry and bargain tags on premium gems.
I find that to be a wonderful illustration of what Jesus said when he came. He looked at the world’s values and declared them to be upside down. All of the price tags were wrong. Greatness, he said, is to be found in service. Self-sacrifice is the only way to save one’s life. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Statement after statement sought to change the priorities and preferences of mankind.
In Revelation chapter 2, we find this statement from Jesus to a group of Christians: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!” (Revelation 2:9). Persecuted and oppressed because of their faith, these followers of Jesus had fallen on hard times financially. Yet Jesus could look at them and declare them rich.
Then Jesus turns to another group of believers and tells them: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Jesus doesn’t see things the way the world sees them. He knew that these wealthy Christians were destitute on the inside.
True riches are not measured with dollar signs. They can’t be found in storage units or warehouses. True wealth doesn’t rise and fall with the stock market. A man can have lots of money and plenty of possessions, yet be very poor indeed. We can’t trust the world’s judgment as to who is rich and who is poor. The price tags aren’t in the right place.
So what matters? Relationships. Our relationship with God and our relationship with other people. Money, health, youth, possessions … these are all temporary things that can be lost as quickly as they are gained. Being right with God is the only eternal thing. And we can’t be right with God if we aren’t right with the people around us.
Don’t trust in the tags that the world has put on the things around us. Only Jesus can tell us what is really of value. Only Jesus can make us rich in the ways that count.