Something happened last night. You were sleeping. Perhaps you were awake and pondering life’s uncertainties? Maybe you were in the ER waiting for news? Could you have been driving down the road of despair? We all were in different places, experiencing a moment of life completely separate and apart from each other. But it happened all the same.
The sun rose. Dawn happened. The light came up and forced back the darkness. And now each of us… all of us… every last one of us, faces a new day. Whether you roll out of bed and curl your toes on fresh, clean carpet… or if you stand drenched in rain as an outcast in the world’s gutter… we all get a new day.
What is a new day? Hope. Opportunity. Wounds will scab over. Spoken words will sting less. Perspective will settle in. Deep breaths will draw attention to purpose. Heads may dare to look up. It’s a chance to roll up yesterday and mark it forever where it belongs to live… the past.
When your fingers clinch the dirt you can push yourself up knowing that today isn’t a mock-up of anything you have experienced before. The fresh smell of this new day confirms one thing to each one of us. Days aren’t templates spit out by machines forcing us to jump from day to day, learning patterns of life and accepting the mold dealt out to us.
No, we know better. Days are born. We get to mold them. And a new day… a fresh day… a morning untainted by yesterday’s mistakes is the best time to realize that we get another chance. A fresh start. A new beginning. We are not bound to yesterday’s mistakes. We are not condemned to the folly of our youth.
Today, on this new day, we can explode into a life that we cherish. We can create moments that we love. We can push forward out of trials and into tried. Learned from our experiences and ready to conquer. Today… we can. We get to. We have.
Pity is weak. Regret is banging on the locked door of the past. Lets take this new day and write out new legacy’s for ourselves. We can charter in a new era of positive thinking, success, and good memories.
The biggest mistake you could make is to assume this day isn’t yours. That it isn’t for you. That you can’t participate, NAY! Commandeer the day and make it perfect. Or… you can roll over, close your eyes, and see if maybe another one comes along tomorrow. It might. It might not. Today is at hand. Grasp it with yours and own it.
Christianity gut check:
Let’s say that Christ is coming back today! What is your immediate reaction? Excitement? Fear? Questions? Concerns? Need a moment?
Today’s homework is to ponder that simple question. What is your reaction if you were told, today is THE day? And its quite easy to determine where your relationship is with God based on your immediate response (not the one after you think about it for a few minutes… but the knee-jerk, instant, first response).
Is your response, “huzzah, I’m ready!”… or are you hoping that there is an essay portion to explain your current status? Don’t read into this a doomsday, better hurry, you aren’t right with God, etc. post. This is merely something you can do on your own, and your own response might surprise you.
If you reflect properly, you might catch some patterns that need tweaking. When you constantly ask the question, would God approve? your outlook changes.
Some of us get stuck in ruts and it takes someone shaking our shoulders and smacking us around a bit before we realize that life on autopilot is not the life God called us to live. I’m not even going to try and presuppose your position in life right now. But you can. Is God on your mind’s speed dial? Does your heart belong to Him during the good AND bad times? Are you excited at the thought of His perfect plan completing with the triumphant return of our King where eternity finally begins?
Be honest… you only have yourself to fool. Are you where you need to be today? If not… save yourself the panic, save you from desperation, prevent the cries for more time and the begging for another chance. Today is a chance… use that.
What if we stopped asking the question… “how would I live differently if I had a second chance… a do-over?”
And instead… we started living like this was our second chance? Our last chance? A moment in time where we haven’t yet blown the next big thing? How would you live? How will you live now that you know… you get to choose the next moment?
I was asked to contemplate an attribute of God. Any one I wanted. While that may sound simple, I didn’t want to bring anything into this. So I set my ears to ‘open’ and waited on something to grab my attention. I didn’t want to be the tiny human trying to explain the almighty God… I wanted Him to teach me something in this.
The very next day, in church, we were singing, “oh God how I need you”. Several emotions were stirred by this verbiage. The “oh” signifies desperation. Or possibly its just an amplification of how much we need Him. The “how” shows depth, which is a different type of need. I need you desperately, but also, in this many things. “oh” is qualitative, while “how” is quantitative. The “need” shows importance. I don’t just “want” You, Your presence is more significant than that. I’m at an impasse. The obstacles aren’t moving. Progress has stopped. If I’m ever to go forward, I “need” God.
And the final word, the one that hit me the hardest, was ‘God’. I was whisked away to a time years ago where I frequented chat rooms. (talking (rather typing) in real time to strangers on the internet, if you aren’t familiar with the term). I said something seemingly innocent in my own mind and caused quite a stir. I wrote ‘God’. I was quickly corrected. “You need to show some respect and type G-d.” Highly confused I opted for other words like Jesus, Lord, etc. At every turn I was met with extreme anger and prompt correction. They simply believed that you can’t say His name.
For some, it wasn’t even an issue of respect, it was a practice to prohibit taking God’s name in vain. For others, they held God so high above themselves that He was almost like a Greek deity. Up in the heavens and far too good to be in our presence. Think about that a moment. A God whose subjects can’t say His name? Or even type it?
Let’s compare my mom with my grandmother. I love my mom. But she had some rules that kept the house in order. It wasn’t so bad it felt like a museum, but it was close at times. No shoes on the furniture. Never, under any circumstances, could you jump on the furniture. No food outside of the kitchen, no running in the house. Etc.
Then I go to grandmother’s home. There she chose to spoil me. And I took full advantage. I would chase the dog relentlessly. I would get a running start to jump up and plop down on the sofa causing every cushion to suffer an aftershock. I ate ice cream and drank soda in every room of the home. Sometimes, I would chase the dog, while running, AND jumping with a drink in my hands. Multi-tasking!
There weren’t different amounts of love between the two houses. There were simply different expectations. My grandmother who didn’t have to worry about my college, or my car, or my expenses, or her own job because she was retired… she just wanted me to be close. To be happy. She wanted to hear the words, “I want to go to grandmother’s home!”. When you aren’t responsible for the children, you seem like a superhero to them. Parents have rules and boundaries and curfews. Grandparents have candy, toys, and freedom. It’s really not fair to the parents. But hey…. who doesn’t want candy?
God has blessed us with free will. And just like grandma, He wants us to choose Him. I feel pretty comfortable in saying, our God, is a jump on the couch kind of God. He just wants us home with Him. He wants our laughter, our fat bellies, and our sticky fingers hugging Him around the neck. Heaven is not going to be a museum. Museum’s have rules, glass cases, locked doors and tons of security. Heaven is going to be a playground. There will be running and jumping and food and drink and singing. He has chosen to make Himself accessible. And this is the attribute I am focusing on.
Consider Matthew 12. Verse 50 says this: “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”. And this is why I don’t find it irreverent to say God’s name… or type it… or sing it… or cry out to it! Written in the word’s of our Savior is that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus when we follow Him. Who is He following? God. Who is God? His daddy. Our brother, Jesus, calls God, Father. What father doesn’t yearn to hear his baby say, ‘dadda’? Why do children say mommy and daddy first? Because their parents are accessible.
Not only accessible, but constantly holding, feeding, changing, and teaching the child. Exactly what God does for us. And I do believe He wants us to call on His name. Father, daddy, pops, God, Lord. He has many names. (Isiah 9:6, et al). And His children are allowed to use them. And we are encouraged to use them.
The Lord’s prayer is exactly that. Our Lord and brother, Jesus stopped to teach us how to pray. He actually said the words, “This, then, is how you should pray…” And what words did He choose in this epic teaching moment? How do we start our conversations with God? “Our Father in heaven…”. God is accessible. He is near. He is present. We can sing to Him, we can speak to Him, we can worship and praise Him… like He is right in front of us… because He is.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring. – Acts 17:27-28
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Whatever we are not willing to give up for God is a weakness that Satan will continue to exploit. The best tools of the devil are the things we hold most dear.
Just one more second.
Just one more inch.
Just one more word.
Just one more dollar.
Just one more signature.
Just one more degree.
Just one more step.
Just one more note.
Just one more answer.
Just one more try.
Success isn’t measured by our performance in the moment that matters most. Success is measured in the preparation for those moments. If you needed one more second to succeed, then you didn’t prepare properly. You chose failure when you opted for rest. You picked second place for yourself, when you needed Friday off. You decided to have fewer friends when you were too busy to call someone back. Choices. Not circumstances. Not luck. Not what-ifs. Options. Decisions. Calculated specifics.
You could have done one more yesterday… but you didn’t. Much of life is like a transaction to me. If you pay in reps yesterday, you succeed in an amount based on those reps today. You can’t go back in time and make a payment just because you decided today that you want it more than you did yesterday. Pay today for what you want tomorrow. If you want a million dollars in your savings account, can you get there by putting in 1 dollar a day? NO! Why do we think we can perform miracles and ace tests we didn’t study for, win races we didn’t run, or gain acceptance we didn’t earn?
Tomorrow, you will take a test. Wouldn’t it be neat if we could pick our grade? I’m not going to promise that everyone can choose to get a 100 and then will get it. What I can promise is that if you put in enough effort to get the 100 then you will. Two things tend to happen during the training process. We either procrastinate or we accept mediocrity. Regardless of the path, some of us are still surprised at how we fell short. Can I retest? Will you curve the grade? Did you cover that, this question didn’t make sense (i.e. its someone else’s fault)?
When I read posts like this one I tend to get sad. I regret yesterday. I start the inner dialogue of frustration with myself. But I’d like to encourage us (you too) to try it from the other perspective. While its not yesterday anymore… it’s not quite tomorrow yet either. Why not do something you will thank yourself later for? Train. Study. Live. Love. Do good deeds. Embrace life so that when you can’t anymore, you savor the moments you chose. This is the anti-regret opportunity. This isn’t my only post like this. It won’t be my last. I’ve read countless others. Why? The struggle is real. The Bitter reality hurts. But the remedy is just out of your reach. Will you figure out how to get it?
Do you feel like removing the ed from needed? You can if you opt to get out of the past and live for the future. Can you do one more today? Can you go further? Will you work harder? Can’t you go faster? Don’t you want to be sharper? Those decisions are born in moments all around you. Grab that moment and make it your success story. Make it your time. Make it yours. Make it. Choices come and go so quickly. Stop pondering and start choosing. Stop blaming and start excelling. Stop excusing and start winning. In all matters of life, YOU are the one that can conquer defeat and make tomorrow a great day.
All I NEED is to choose right now that tomorrow I’m not going to regret anything.
When I first found my faith, you were there. I remember it. At first, it was questionable, but every day as I grew firmer in grace you came closer. When my heart was wholly in God’s hands you had become a regular addition to my life. You were even a little predictable. When temptations didn’t work, you moved on to family and friends. When they wouldn’t waiver you worked outside the box. Illness, stress, relationships, even loss of loved ones.
You liked to work on my temper, my social issues, and how hard it was for me to say no. I loved it when I found you in the middle of my mess. Like a baby deer in headlights you leapt away knowing the name of Jesus was just behind my lips. But, to your credit, you never came back with an old trick… at least not the same way. You are the king of subtlety and calling audibles. Slinking back before I could finish laughing at your escape, I barely noticed how you changed your advances.
When we were constantly at odds life felt complete. Everything made sense. Good versus evil, good always wins, it just felt right. Like Wile E. Coyote you would scamper away, the victim of your own disobedience, while my Savior protected, healed, and loved me.
True to your name, I never even saw how you did it… That day, when I stopped turning to God for help. It was so casual and uneventful. Life calmed down and that rut felt like a comfortable groove. Church days brought extra rest, Bible time became TV hour, and Prayers were things I did to make myself feel better. They were more like checklists and observations than any semblance of conversation. And since I didn’t care to really converse, He didn’t choose to answer. Days turned to weeks and weeks stole away months before years finally ravaged a significant portion of my life away.
You did it. I let my guard down, I guess. I thought I had you all figured out. But your trickery dismantled my dreams, my hopes, my life, and my heart. Kudos on how slow and methodical you approached the situation. A violent attack would have been deflected and I always saw those coming. But you pulled the long con. Years and years passed while the pot slowly boiled beneath me. And to be honest, there were a few times where I actually noticed things weren’t quite right, but I preferred the new sauna I was simmering in. I was certain of my full downfall when I saw the truth in it all and reasoned that it would be tomorrow’s problem. ‘Tomorrow’… the battle cry of the defeated.
I did learn something that I somehow always knew. Once you had everything you wanted out of me… you didn’t want me anymore. All the drama, all the fights, all the cruelty of life diminished. Living just became a gentle sunny day. Sure, I was in quick sand, but it was slow and breezy and warm. It felt like being at the beach. Your absence was noted as much as His. With my soul no longer aligned with the Savior’s your time was better spent on someone else. We spent so many nights fighting. Battling. Maneuvering each other. And then, poof! You have better things to do.
This isn’t the first time you turned your back at the worst possible moment. Do you remember the cross? You turned your back on Jesus with a smug grin on your face. And you left Him to rot in that tomb for 3 days before you realized that you blew it. Not just literally, but eternally. And now you turn your back on me before your work is fully done. The man that blew away that stone has grabbed my hand again. I’ve found His footsteps. And His grace was fully prepared to accept one such as I back again. He doesn’t care where I come from or what you and I were up to. He just welcomes me back with open arms. I must say, coming back is different than the first meeting. This time… I ran to Him.
Have you ever hugged Jesus? I guess not, or you wouldn’t hate Him like you do. It’s incredible. And it reminded me of something. And I think it reminded you too. Because once we embraced, you shrieked. You showed back up in my life again. Years of your absence while I floated through life in a waste of inevitable doom and now I finally have something you want again. Forgiveness, hope, love, a Friend, a Father, a Lord, a God. You want those things, don’t you. Because here you are.
When I say, “I’ve missed you”. I mean that I noticed your absence. I observed how you only show up to take, destroy, ruin, and then move on. And here you are. I see you in the shadows. I see that hate and fuming regret drizzling from your teeth. I see resolve in your eyes. You want this bad. Just like Jesus, you had me… but you couldn’t hang on. I don’t want you back in my life, but I welcome what your interference means. If I didn’t have something good for you to take, you wouldn’t be here.
As evil as you are, you have a good tell. You don’t waste time on people who aren’t a threat to you. So now I know two things. I know that Jesus has taken me back and I know that you want me. You don’t want me back. You want me away from Him. I’ve become a threat again. A target for your cause. Where once I was afraid, now I can grin safely in my Savior’s arms. You want what you can’t have. Jesus won. You can’t ever undo what happened on the cross or in the tomb. While my soul may still be ‘in play’, I’m telling you that you can’t have that either. Because to take it, you have to go through Him… and we both know how that will end.
I know this won’t stop you, and we will be seeing a lot more of each other as I choose the light of the world. But one thing is different this time. I’m not just trying to save myself. Because I have already been saved, I will be trying to save others. I’m not ashamed to say His name anymore. I’ll speak it freely. The timid boy you once knew has a sword and shield. Where once I hid behind religion I now stand tall behind THE God.
I know better than to taunt you or tease you. No insults or threats here. I just wanted you to know that I see you have returned. And to be honest, it feels good. The world is right again. I am by my Savior’s side and you work tirelessly to pull me away. What a compliment you give. That I might be a threat to you. I know its not me you fear… but you know what even most Christians won’t acknowledge… That Jesus works through those that allow Him to. He isn’t bound. He just chooses to work were welcomed. And He is MOST WELCOMED here!
I never chose you, but you tricked me once. I do not welcome you in my life, but now I understand why you try so hard. You know given the choice between a hateful, spiteful, selfish, evil, demon and a loving, saving, forgiving God you wouldn’t have any volunteers. So you pervert the game. You obscure the rules, and you confuse the players. You corrupt and rot because you don’t have the ability to compete fairly. God creates and heals. You make the valley of dry bones and God resurrects. You spread disease and God cures. You dismantle families and God reunites. You cheapen and God restores.
Who would choose you? Not me. Not again. I’m taking the narrow path. The one you have hidden behind lies, manipulation, and coercion. And until I go, I’ll be showing it to others. Signs, lights, markers, whatever I have to do. I’m not worried about me any more. It’s them that need saving. So stay with me. Send your worst. I can’t handle it, but my God can. And while you piddle around with bad days, corrupt governments, illness, money issues, and any other obstacles you can conjure up, I’ll be too busy carrying the lost away from you to notice. I’ll take your temporary misfortunes and hurtful accusations. I’ll take poverty and loneliness too. I’m just not interested in this world anymore. And that is all you’ve got. You can’t offer ANYTHING that won’t burn away.
I’m going home… and I’m taking them with me!
The new TV seasons are slowly cropping up to finally deliver on that promise they left us all with so many months ago… What will happen next!!!!????!??!
As I’ve been pondering some of the more clever (and cruel) cliffhangers we have been left dangling with… Who shot JR?, Ross saying ‘Rachel’ at his wedding, ‘not Penny’s boat’… I wonder how we would be affected if we binge-watched the life of Jesus.
He’s born… lots of gifts…teaches in the temple… makes some enemies… heals, prays, travels, yada yada yada… He dies.
“It is finished” he speaks out loud, as it actually is… finished.
Well, it can’t end there. There wouldn’t be another season. The cameras are still rolling. My wife will look at the clock and see there is still time remaining in the final episode of the series. That just wouldn’t make for good TV anyway. The cliffhanger is an art. You have to leave the viewer wanting more, but “wanting” is not accurate. The viewer must crave. The proper cliffhanger creates enough anger (yet not so much the viewer will quit the show) mixed with enough emotion and stirred in with the proper amount of enthusiasm, so that when the time comes to pick up the story… you can’t be found anywhere else but glued to the TV soaking in what happens next.
Killing off Jesus is a mixed bag. Some were devastated, some cheered. The line in the sand didn’t move, it was erased. Victory, defeat… depends where you stood, but it doesn’t matter because the story is over if its truly finished. So they put Jesus in a tomb. Still no plot twist. Oh, I hate it when they do this. They killed off the main character and then for 3 more episodes they go on some side plot that no one cared about. They know, each week, we are going to tune in to check on the main character only to find out, yet again, they decided to put a pin in it. Not just 3 shows, but it was during the super bowl, so you go like 5 weeks salivating at where the plot could possibly be going.
Then you happen to see the camera pan by that familiar tomb. They alluded to it for months, but we didn’t think much of it. Just another sad reminder of what they did to our hero. Wait, why is the big stone gone? Don’t they know that… hold on! The garments are neatly folded on the…. !!!! and then it happens.
… To be continued
That is not the end. That is a cliffhanger. The story isn’t over. Jesus’ part of it is mostly done. But now comes the payoff. The big reveal. The final moment where we take over in our own lives and decide what it all means to us. The credits won’t roll because we haven’t all decided yet. It’s not “finished” because WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE! Can you fathom that? The writers have collected their checks. The producer has left the set. The crew is packing up cameras and props while loose script pages are being swept away. Yet… the show isn’t over folks. One thing still remains. Our part is yet to be decided.
The stone was rolled away… queue the person reading blogs on the internet, its time for them to make a decision. Can you step up under the heat of the stage lights and respond to the story laid before you?
The stone was rolled away. The burial garments folded and left behind. The tomb is empty…. “ACTION!!!”
Let me ask one final question. When Jesus does return, where will you be? Will you still be trying to learn your lines? Or, will you be glued to the Bible, waiting on the return, so you can finally be a part of what happens next?
This picture sums up better than I’ve ever been able to with words, how God’s word, His law, and His expectations are lovingly freeing to those obedient to Him.
God doesn’t desire to put us in a boring box. He yearns to be near us. To protect us. And even those that fully understand this start to feel trapped at times. “I can’t do this, I can’t do that. Why is God smothering me and keeping me from fun?” It doesn’t happen overnight. But eventually, it makes sense to us that we need to get out of that cage.
Look back at that picture again. This is more like God’s point of view. He will allow people to come and go… but He really, really wants you to stay. He loves you, wants to keep you safe, and knows that predators literally hide above, below, and on all sides of your life. The enemy is ruthless, cunning, and knows how to work through friends, family, loved ones, businesses, and even strangers on the road.
What is life like inside of the cage? It’s wonderful. I’m safe. I’m loved. I’m accepted. I gave up bad habits that were only holding me back. Now I can go farther. Did you catch that? I have MORE freedom in God’s embrace. He is with me wherever I go. Like children learning to walk, we aim to get further away from the parents that want to keep us on the ground. Do they hate us? No, but they don’t want us to fall either. They construct cages and barriers of all kinds for our safety. If it were up to us, we’d wander into traffic out of sheer curiosity.
Sadly, we never grow out of this reflex. To test our limits and see how far, high, and fast we can go is seemingly born within us. Helmets weren’t invented before the first fall. They were thought up after incident after incident. Eventually someone thought, there has to be a better way. Wear this! It will protect you. God’s love and protection is little different. It’s not just in case… It’s to save eternal lives.
Consider what Jesus has done for you. What lengths He went through to save you. Measure that against His wisdom. It really is freeing to forgive others. It truly is satisfying to not judge others. Telling the truth? Why, its the healthiest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t have to bother with alibi’s, details I may have forgotten, or cross checking stories with others. I’m hoping the next time I’m tempted to wander outside of the cage, I remember how wonderful it really is inside. That Satan wants us out and he will tell any lie he can to get us out from under God’s shield.
And if I can’t remember that, I hope this picture helps. It’s a reminder of how ridiculous the thought is of trying to leave in the first place. And for what? So I can gossip a bit more? Or to make sure my politics are heard? Or I just don’t feel like anyone in here gets who I am? lies, lies, lies. This picture tells the truth of what is outside. I hope you can see it too.