Live IN the Future, Not for it

We spend our lives trying to get to the good moments. When bad things happen we strive to overcome and repair. It’s often about getting back to our happy places.

Pain is not just inevitable, it’s a guarantee. It’s a promise wrought on by a fallen world desperate to take it all. Where is the hope? There are glimpses here and there, but in its fullness we won’t see it until we have nothing left. Death, for instance, doesn’t cost different things for different people… it’s the same price for all and it simply costs everything. This can be difficult to understand whether we fear our own or lose others we care so much about.

We take nothing with us. Jesus knew this and yet stayed on mission. His task was not to find Joy only to lose it in the end when all is left behind. He didn’t amass wealth or accolades that would be stripped from Him as He passed on. His death was how He returned to the Father and it’s also how He saved us. And so He locked on to that moment and bee-lined straight to it.

No time to waste, no distractions, ‘I’ve got a death to get to’. Why me? Nope he never said those words, ‘why me?’. How silly would it have sounded for the only person equipped to live out his life and death for us to ponder if someone else not capable could take His place… and how ironic as His task was exactly that… to take our place.

You are expertly equipped and placed into your life circumstances unlike any other. Others know pain, but no one knows YOUR pain. Why you? You are the only one who can. You can wallow in regret and pity or you can embrace the inevitable and bee-line through destiny knowing the truth of Jesus.

Life isn’t the relationships we make in this world. It’s not about getting back to the good moments or experiencing the peace and calm… it’s about that mission that takes us from one rocky moment to the next… the ones we were trained for… the ones we have been made and prepared for. And when our mission is complete, it’s not about what we leave behind or are left without… it’s about what is ahead.

Whether we lose children or parents or struggle with illness and debt and loneliness and many other things… it’s never, why me? Why NOT me? Who else could do this? Getting through this moment with eyes on God, thinking eternally… that is exactly what Jesus came and showed us how to do.

COVID, school, jobs, sickness, death, despair, heartache… we have the tools to look up. It’s not about getting back, it’s about getting up. We can stand up and face any day that we give to God. Not through our strength, but with His.

The enemy offers consolation in grief and utter loss. His cure is stagnation. His goal is doubt and confusion. He will whisper that you deserve more, he will dangle sad memories and terrible challenges through your anxiety and frustration. He wins when we give in to ‘why me?’.

It means we have lost sight of the Savior who constantly chanted, ‘it HAS to be me’ while He sacrificed beyond all understanding. You have the power to do the same. His name is Jesus and He gave it to you. You can look the doubt and fears and turmoil square in the eyes and giggle with the faith of being created to be led directly through the storms and into the hope that awaits you.

You can do this. You were made for this. It’s not about the people around you or the weakness within you. It’s not for the stuff or the memories. It’s certainly not for posting and sharing… It’s about getting through while looking up. Eyes on the Father. That is how Jesus did it. That is what we have been prepared for.

We get to live in the future. IN the future. Normally that isn’t possible. You might think I meant to say, “FOR” the future. No. For the future is planning ahead. You exercise today to be buff tomorrow. You study today to be smart tomorrow. That is living “FOR” the future.

Living “IN” the future is being aware of when eternity begins. It’s knowing God who is omniscient (all knowing). It’s doing things today BECAUSE of tomorrow. Crazy things that don’t build you up at all. Sacrificing money and food, or even just being kind to someone that will still hate you after. That is living IN the future. It doesn’t better yours, it betters theirs.

Living IN the future knows the score. It knows how things have already turned out thanks to the death of Jesus Christ. It exclaims, “I’m there!”. I want in on that! I receive the gift of Jesus. And everything I do will be with that gift in mind. It’s not building a better tomorrow, you already have the best tomorrow! It’s accepting and knowing what your tomorrow will be no matter how terrible today seems.

You will be tempted to look out on life and try to get back to some point, some moment, or maybe even some feeling. This is where despair comes from. Trying to get to something that you were never meant for. Try living each moment as though God is leading you through to something fantastic… because if you let Him, He will. The confusion comes from temporary fantastic and eternal awe and amazement. Living IN the future will help discern between the two.

Is Your Christianity Out of Style?

How many of us are still trying the same things we learned to do 5 years ago? Perhaps even 10 years? 20? Even longer? Consider the picture of the handsome young boy trying to put on a shoe that barely goes over his big toe.

How silly is that? His laugh is genuine. At 6 years old, he knows how unbelievably ridiculous it is to try on a shoe meant for a new born. His body is growing and he is constantly trying on new clothes to fit into. He can’t even wear clothes from last year, let alone 5 years ago.

What he knows to be true of his clothes, should be similar with our faith. Are you still wearing last year’s faith? Is your relationship with God sustained over holidays and rare needs you just have to ask for?

We can hardly keep up with technology. Our phones keep changing, our internet keeps growing, the apps keep multiplying. Medicine is ever growing, changing, and educating us in new ways of health, exercise and diet. Our fashions change, not only in trendiness, but fabrics and colors go in and out of season.

Everything around us follows this flow of renewal, refreshing, upgrading, growing, advancing, empowering…. where does your faith stand in the midst?

Is it growing? Is your faith busting at the seams, demanding a new, larger space to hold it? Are we constantly throwing out the old and small because we keep getting bigger and better where it matters most?

Stop trying to squeeze into yesterday’s faith… it shouldn’t fit anymore. Faith is putting on baggy clothes knowing we will grow into them. My mom taught me that growing up. She grew so tired of buying new shoes, I never had a pair that fit. I grew accustomed to walking around in shoes so big that my feet slid around in them.

Guess what happened when my feet grew? Did the shoes finally fit? NO! She bought bigger shoes. It’s time for those safe, comfy shoes that wrap around our toes and gently hug our heals to get tossed. We need bigger shoes to fill! We need uncomfortable room to grow into.

Peter was used to walking on dry ground. When Jesus called him into the water, he had to step into much bigger shoes to be able to stand on the water. And he stood! Even if only momentarily, he stood. Then he raced back to his smaller shoes out of fear and he began to sink. With bigger shoes comes bigger potential and bigger opportunity, but also a requirement to step faithfully in them no matter how they feel.

The biggest shoes of all were worn by Jesus. They went through poverty, wilderness, wedding feasts, celebrations, resurrections, the cross and they finally made it home to the Father in heaven… we are meant to follow in those mammoth footsteps. Did you catch that? It wasn’t all easy. There was some pain in His path. But it lead to the Father.

You can’t get to God in small shoes of faith. Jesus will take us, but only if we follow in His big steps. Jesus constantly praised those with faith. The roman centurion who knew Jesus could command the sickness to leave without entering his home, the men who lowered the paralytic through the roof on a mat, the woman who touched his robe, the other woman who gave her last two mites (all of her money)… faith, faith, faith, faith.

From what I can gather, Jesus will bring us to the Father if we bring the big faith.

What can you do to grow a size today?

Roads Vs. Oceans

I feel like many of us have been living in a certain sort of turmoil. The picture that comes to my mind is trying to turn out of a parking lot onto a busy street. You pull up with your blinker on and wait your turn. But the cars keep coming. Not just one or two, or perfectly spaced apart… but as you look in each direction you see an endless line of headlights slowly dimming over the horizon. And the words exasperatedly enter both your mind and your soul… “I’m never getting out of here”

A terrible feeling for sure, but an easy problem structure to have… at least for most. The problems are many… seemingly infinite, but as you likely have experienced, they still only come one or two at a time. And, if we end up patient enough, they pass us by and we can eventually pull out of our ruts and struggles and make our way to the road of our journey.

Some now have a different kind of pain. The picture that comes to my mind is an ocean. Far out into the massive expanse of water, you are treading over unexplored depths. It’s dark, it’s cold, and you can’t see anything in any direction that you look, save the waves that keep bouncing past your face reminding you that your small world just became a tiny piece of hay hidden in a massive needle-stack.

Sharks don’t attack in single file lines, they swarm and circle. There are jelly fish too, and sting rays, eels, piranha’s, whales, and all sorts of other deadly creatures. There are currents, undertows, and storms. But even if nothing actually and physically attacks you… you are getting tired and as you gasp for breath, each time a little more salt water finds it way into your mouth.

Where before, our problems seemed huge and life altering… we can look back now and sense that those were the good ole days. Single file problems in the highway of life that would mildly detour us, but eventually gave way and let us back in our lane. Now we have been dropped in the ocean.

Whizzing though our minds are thoughts of loved ones, travel plans, jobs, bills, food, shelter, civil issues, panic, and the uncertainty of how everyone else’s behavior could change. The store shelves are empty, the news won’t stop with scare tactics and dramatics… and we might just think exasperatedly… “I’m never getting out of this”. We might even long for the days when our terrible problems seem so much simpler now.

What strikes me is how differently Paul prayed. “get me out of this!”… nope. Not him. He said “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. He explained that if he was allowed to keep on living that he would just use his life to continue sharing Jesus with others, and if He died, that He would be with Jesus and his mission would be accomplished.

While I think this would be a great, albeit morbid application here, that isn’t the point I want to make. For Paul, it wasn’t about living or dying because he always lived his life in such a way that it didn’t matter what happened next.

When the roads backed up and he couldn’t make progress… he would, effectively, minister in the parking lot he was stuck in. When the ocean swelled around him and the sharks closed in, He prepared his mind for the eternity he had been living for all along.

There was no, “why me?” or “how come”… it was always, “Lord, I serve you”… even in situations much worse than we see today. And at the crux of it all was what He kept His eyes on. He didn’t see the road, or the cars, or the water, or the fear, or the panic… He just saw Jesus. When eyes are locked on the Savior, you get saved. That doesn’t mean yanked out of problems, but it does mean eternal life with a Savior that defines love and peace.

I’ve always been perplexed by the phrase, “meet your maker”. To most that means death. Paul lived his life every day with his maker… and it was wonderful. David sang in caves while in hiding for his life… he sang about his wonderful, magnificent maker. Jesus, when sacrificing himself for us, was in constant communion with His maker.

What I have learned is that if we meet our maker now… we aren’t afraid to meet him in the end. A relationship with God now, means we understand and even appreciate the end. Forfeiting that relationship now, is what gives so much fear and panic to such a phrase and possibility.

That relationship is hope. It is light in the middle of the struggle. It is peace in the storms of life. It brings balance, courage, and sense into the chaos.

This isn’t about having morbid thoughts of despair today, tomorrow, or even the next few months or years… It’s about acknowledging that men and women who faced such situations didn’t know fear when they knew their maker. This is true for pandemics and it’s true for surgeries and marriages and relationships and jobs. When you know Jesus, you live for Him… and that may not pull you out of the water, but it makes you fearless, content, and able to live strong, proud, and for Him in every situation.

Paul knew, he would either look back one day and see how God lead Him through, or He with be with God soon… either way was a victory for him. And that is how he lived out every day. Every wonderful, God created, Spirit-filled day where he communed with His creator no matter what the Devil came up with for that day. Today we can dread the unknown, or we can meet our Maker. He answers to God, Father, Lord, and many other titles. He wants to know you, He wants to fellowship with you. He wants to restore those who used to know Him…

Speak those words… ‘God, I want to know you!’ Perhaps speak them again if you don’t know Him well. And find where the bravery of Paul came from. Learn what hope means and why fear is trivial in the most extreme circumstances.


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Remember that Movie about the Things and the Stuff?

What is your favorite movie? When you share it with friends in conversation how do you describe it? What if you had to sum it up in only 1 short sentence? No commas. No run on. No compounding. Just a short, simple sentence.

I’ll describe some of my favorite movies this way and lets see if you can guess any of them:

  1. A love story about a billionaire and his secretary.
  2. A young man finally stands up to his father.
  3. The world obsesses over jewelry.
  4. He took back what was his!
  5. A shy girl takes a risk on a loser.
  6. A small door is more versatile than expected.
  7. They danced in Chicago.
  8. Roasting marshmallows in New York
  9. Everyone just watched.
  10. One of the best Christmas movies.

You can scroll down a bit to see the answers if you want them now. They are in bold.

Did you get them all? Did you guess any correctly? Let’s be honest, you can’t accurately depict a movie in this way. Two hours doesn’t condense into a single simple sentence. The math doesn’t work that way, and even when you try, the logic doesn’t follow.

Most movies are so good for the very deep things that would require lots of explanation. What we tend to enjoy are masterfully wrapped surprises that are slowly unveiled throughout the course of the story. While every synopsis above was accurate in one way or another, none of them get to the heart of what makes each movie so good.

Before we go any further, here are the movies I was attempting to summarize:

  1. Iron Man.
  2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  3. Lord of the Rings
  4. Lion King
  5. Rocky
  6. Titanic
  7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  8. Ghostbusters
  9. Truman Show
  10. Die Hard

Isn’t it silly to think that we could convince somebody to give up 2 hours of their day to watch something we recommend in under 1 sentence?

Even the most basic life fundamentals require discussion and dissection. Have you ever seen someone about to get hit by a ball or some other projectile? Someone yells “duck!” or “Look out!” and what happens? Does the person duck or dive out of the way without any followup? Not usually. The first thing they tend to do is to look right towards the person yelling. The fastest way to get someone to put their face directly in the path of the object about to hit them is to yell, “look out!”.

We are conditioned to see for ourselves. We just can’t take someone else’s word for it… even when its to our own peril. The lesson is also true of hot stoves. You can tell a child not to touch it, but the lesson is only temporary at best until they actually touch it and experience the pain for themselves. THEN, we could say the lesson is burned into their thinking.

If we can’t accurately depict a feature film in one sentence, what would it take to share the life of Jesus to a world conditioned in receiving information 140 characters at a time?

What story are we telling when we only give snippets of the Bible? What message is our audience receiving when we dwell on the rules of the scripture? Do non-believers go rushing to the Bible book stores when we dive into politics? What if we just try to live by example, and so people only ever see a nice person living out their days? Maybe we only talk about God on Sundays?

We can be really good at summing up the Bible in all the wrong ways, just like I did with the movies a moment ago. And if you thought that exercise was futile… so it is with preaching only a tiny fraction of God’s word. If you thought it ludicrous that anyone would guess the movie after such a short and poor description… imagine what the world thinks of God when we can do the same thing with a much larger, more complicated work about the life of Jesus.

We aren’t a short Psalm. God didn’t craft us to be a parable. None of us can be summed up by a list of rules. We are children of God and have good news to share. Let’s share the whole story!

The common excuse is that we are waiting on something. We need money, power, status, followers, time and strength. We need spiritual gifts and a platform to perform them.

The followers that Jesus accepted decided to follow Him before He made Himself truly known (i.e. before any of the excuses listed above). They dropped what they were doing and walked away from their lives over a simple request, “Follow me”.

The people that wanted to follow Jesus after He made Himself known were turned away (Luke 9). So how do we change the world? How do we get the attention of the lost and share this amazing story with a people that get bored before we get the first sentence out of our mouths?

We act like Jesus. We talk like Him. We pray like Him. We love like Him. We lead to the Father in our every breath, step, and motion. We don’t seek numbers of followers or reports of grand conversions or even baptisms. We simply go about the Father’s business and He will take care of the rest.

This was the faith of Jesus. We must have faith like Jesus. That even on the cross, when things look the bleakest, we can know that Dad will take care of everything. When we trust in God, the story is heard. When we pray faithfully and love unconditionally, the truth is told. When people can see Jesus everyday rather than hearing poorly worded, second hand summaries…The good news is told and spread.

When we know the whole story, we know the great commission isn’t just to retell the story. We are to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. The life saving gospel is only fully told when we are fully engaged in Christ. Otherwise, we are just spitting out one-liners and hoping people will go and watch for themselves.

If we want people to know Jesus… we have to introduce them. They have to see Him for themselves. We can’t introduce them to someone we barely know.


Image by creative_designer from Pixabay