Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Reality

This Christmas has been bitter-sweet. In my last post I wrote about being in a temporary world on our way to an eternal home. At 6 am on Christmas morning Jeri’s (my wife) Grandma Raine went home to heaven.

Obviously, this was a difficult way to begin Christmas day, but something amazing had occurred. For the first time in many years the whole family was gathered in two locations. My father-in-love’s family were all together in Virginia Beach (this included our family). And, his sister’s family were all gathered in Michigan (where they live and were Grandma lived).

This provided us the chance to immediately truly be there for each other. It was hard, but we were all together! I praise God for working out these details.

Finally, these times are a little weird for me. When the person we “lose” is a believer, I have a tough time really getting overly upset. It absolutely hurts, but at the same time I rejoice because they have truly moved from the temporary life (with all its hurt and struggle) on to their eternal life (with no more tears). If anything, I’m a little jealous. I love life, I pray often that God’s mission for me will keep me hear for a long, long time, but when it’s time for me to go home – I’m ready!!

Even writing this is a bit weird because I’m really not in a hurry to get out of here, and you always here stories of people writing or saying something like this and then dying. Yet, it’s the truth, it’s how I feel, when I go home – celebrate for me!! And, I’ll look forward to seeing you there – what a party that will be!

Father, I pray that you will ease the pain we feel in our loss. You are the God of all comfort, and we lean on You in times like this. I thank you that we don’t grieve like those with no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). In Jesus’ name.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of you!!

One thing that's comforting to me in this year of so much worldly uncertainty in knowing all of this is just temporary.

I know if you've lost your job, seen your financial portfolio tumble, lost a loved one (the list could go on and on) it can be difficult to see these things as "temporary". And, I certainly do not want to make light of the hardships we face in this world.

Yet, the truth remains the truth - whether we "feel" it or not. Jesus explained that He is the Truth. He also told us He was the Life - real life. And, in this same statement, He set Himself apart as the Way. The Way to what?

The Way to what is real and lasting! That is why I know this world is just temporary. The Apostle Paul also gave us this description - this life and world is only temporary.

So, while we are still here in this time of "in between" - living in a temporary world on our way to an eternal home - it's important to keep things in perspective.

Love much!! Spend a lot of time with family and friends. Soak in the good things, and give a little less attention to the bad. Make new friends - with no other agenda than just to be a good friend. Re-connect with old friends - it's amazing how quickly those relationships can be rekindled to what they used to be.

And, this Christmas, spend some time just pondering why Jesus would choose to leave the place we all long for - heaven - to come and walk a while in our shoes. This wasn't just some random act - there was/is an eternal purpose for His choosing to come.

Knowing the reason makes all the difference in the world!

Much love to all of you,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Doing Good

I had a great conversation with a friend today. It was over an hour long, so I obviously can’t hit it all on this post, but let me share one of the things that real struck me. It’s not something I haven’t thought about before, but I’m not sure I’ve thought about it this way (at least not for awhile).

It revolves around this idea of “doing good”. I often hear Christians (and others) talk about just doing the right thing – or if their talking in spiritual terms – doing what God wants them to do.

Certainly the Bible does say we should do good things. The Book of James says faith without action is dead (James 2:17). Hebrews tells us to “encourage each other towards outbursts of love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). First John teaches, “…let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18).

Yet, so many people I talk with seem to be lost when it comes to knowing what they should be doing. Here’s where I think we miss it – it’s NOT about a checklist; it’s about a relationship. Said another way, I don’t think God just wants us to come up with our own list of good things to do and then one-by-one do them and check them off and feel better about ourselves. Granted, that would probably be much easier, but it misses the whole point the Bible makes about being in relationship with God and each other.

The kicker is that relationships are more difficult (and they don’t operate on checklists). They’re very dynamic! The same is true in our relationship with God, it’s not just a list of things to do and not do, it’s about spending time with Him and getting to know Him (and the primary ways we do this is through reading the Bible and prayer).

I believe the “good things” we do are actually meant to be the by-product of our relationship with God. The closer I get to God, the more godly I become (in my thoughts, words and actions). Said another way, the more like God I become, the more “good things” I will do – naturally, not based on some checklist.

Our focus should not be on coming up with a list of good things to do. Our focus should be on spending more time with God. This allows Him to transform our hearts to be more like His heart. The result – we will do the things God would do – the good things - if He were still here in human form (which, by the way, I think He is still here on earth working through those who choose to follow Him).

So, away with the checklist, dive into the relationship. The “good things” to do will follow – naturally and relationally!