Stop Obsessing

According to the Council on Foreign Relations there are five critical conflicts, eleven significant conflicts and nine limited conflicts taking place in the world. Twenty-five in all, and that’s only counting the conflicts that impact the interests of the United States (you can read their report at https://www.cfr.org/interactive/global-conflict-tracker?category=us).

There’s no mention in their report of the unrest in Haiti, or the MNLF in the Philippines – conflicts that seriously impact people locally but (let’s be honest here) that we don’t have a vested interest in so they are of little interest to America as a nation.

By one count there may be as many as fifty-five conflicts presently on-going in the world today. That’s a significant number.

Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group has said, The international order as we know it is unravelling, with no clear sense of what will come in its wake (https://www.ceasefire.ca/trends-and-trouble-spots-in-2019/).

So naturally people are asking, is this the end? Are we at that point in human history when we are literally looking into the abyss?

Jesus talked about the final days of history and identified one characteristic of this period of time as wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6). With that anticipation, it’s logical that Christians will ask if we are in the last times.

But for many Christians, it’s more than just a question. It has become, if not an obsession then certainly a major emphasis in their study and personal lives.

But we don’t need to obsess over it. Whether or not we are in the final days shouldn’t change anything. It’s interesting to think about but it should not be a determining factor in how we live out our lives.

The Apostle Peter makes this clear in his discussion on the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10-13). After telling us that,

the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up,

he asks the million-dollar question – Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?

Peter (read God here) is more concerned with how we live in light of the end than he is with our obsession with all things future. Frankly, an infatuation with the end times, or a penchant for calculating when the end will come, is a waste of time and energy. We should instead be spending our time and energy on holy living and godliness.

We don’t live holy lives because we think that Jesus might come back tonight. We live holy lives because it’s the right thing to do and we need to do it regardless of the timing of His return. Our lives should reflect godliness whether He returns tomorrow or a thousand years from tomorrow.

Our focus is to be holy living, not the end times. The end times is the incentive, but holy living is the goal.

The question is not When will Jesus come? The question is Am I living like Jesus today?

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

What’s On Your Bucket List?

I’m not sure where the term bucket list originated, but it was certainly popularized by the 2007 movie of the same title, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. You remember the movie – two terminally ill men escaped from a cancer ward and headed off on a road trip with a wish list of things that they wanted to do before they died. Their list included skydiving, driving a Shelby Mustang, flying over the North Pole, eating in France, visiting the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Mt Everest and a safari in Africa.

Not a bad list!

As the story goes, they were able to do many of the things on their bucket list before time ran out. In the end one died and the other lived to the age of 81. Both of them were cremated and their remains were left on a peak in the Himalayas.

Since then, the idea of a bucket list has reached a certain popularity in our culture. It seems like most people have a list of things that they hope to do before it’s eternally too late.

But have you ever considered a spiritual bucket list?

The benefits of crossing things off a bucket list are limited. Beyond a few moments of pleasure and a sense of accomplishment, there isn’t much more.

The benefits of accomplishing items on your spiritual bucket list are far more significant. Depending on your list you may change someone’s eternal destiny; bring peace into a tumultuous life; encourage someone who is down; lift a fallen brother or sister; or offer hope to the hopeless.

There’s nothing wrong with having a bucket list. I have places in the world that I would include on my list – Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, the Taktshang monastery (The Tiger’s Nest – check it out!), and the Great Pyramids to name a few.

But how much better – and more exciting – to have a spiritual bucket list that has the potential of eternal outcomes.

If you were to sit down and begin composing a spiritual bucket list, what would you include? What things do you want to accomplish in the spiritual realm while you still have time?

It’s never too late to get started!

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

A Better Day is Coming

One of the New Testament books that people struggle with is the book of Revelation. Not only is it difficult to understand but even scholars disagree on its interpretation. However, there is still a lot of material that we can understand. One of the passages that gives us encouragement and hope is Revelation 21:1-4.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

Let me point out the obvious. In eternity we will no longer be separated from God. Three times (I’ve underlined them for you) we are told that God will be with us. The preposition means to be in company with or to accompany. The idea is that we will have a close intimate relationship with God that is different from what we presently experience. That relationship will be possible because we shall be His people and He will be their God. That is, we will be totally His, heart, mind and soul, and He will be totally ours. No sin to tempt us; no temptations to lure us away; no lust to divide our loyalties, we will be His. And He will be ours. Think about it. The Almighty God of the universe will be totally and only for us to enjoy.

The next statement is not only encouraging but it illustrates just how much He will be ours. Tenderly and compassionately He will wipe away every tear from their (our) eyes. As a father I can remember the times when my children were very young and one of them would fall down or hurt themselves. All I wanted to do was to hold them and wipe away their tears until the hurt was gone. Now I feel the same about my grandchildren. I just want to make it all better. That’s what God will do for us. We often think of God as austere and authoritarian. But He is also kind and compassionate and I like to think that someday He is going to take you in His arms, wipe away your tears and hold you until all of the hurts that you have experienced in this life are gone. I don’t know how He will do that with millions of believers, but then He’s God – I’m sure He can figure it out.

And life will be fundamentally different. No death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain. All of the things that bring you pain and suffering in this life will be over, never to be experienced again.

Some of you are going through trials in your life of pain and suffering and it’s easy for the rest of us to say, we’re praying for you. But sometimes that just isn’t enough. Perhaps you are battling cancer or something equally difficult, with endless rounds of hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, chemo therapy and you are facing an unknown future. Your prognosis is not good. You are suffering physically, emotionally and probably spiritually. To you I want to hold out the hope, the assurance, of rest in the arms of God. Of a future that will know no pain or suffering, but only the blessedness of the presence of God.

God Himself will be with [you] and [He will] be [your] God.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Someday You Will See

I just came from my biennial eye exam. The good news is that there has been no change since my check-up in 2015. The bad news is that everything’s blurry! Since medical issues for me do not include eye problems (just reading glasses) I’m not tuned into the procedures. Forgot about the dilation.

Driving to the office was interesting! Even now the computer screen is blurry around the edges.

That made me think of the words of the Apostle Paul, now we see in a mirror, dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The word dimly is where we get our word enigma. An enigma is a mystery or a puzzle. It’s not clear or unambiguous. Perhaps a word that gives the sense of Paul’s statement would be indistinctly.

Most commentators point out the fact that in Paul’s day, mirrors were usually polished pieces of metal that gave a rather imperfect reflection. Sort of like seeing your face in the rippling waters of a stream. You can see yourself, just not as well as in your mirror at home.

To make his point about seeing in a mirror, dimly, Paul made a comparison between a child and an adult (verse 11). They just see things differently. Any parent of a small child will confirm this.

Children see things from a perspective limited by their knowledge and experience. The adult looks at the same set of facts and sees them entirely different because of the knowledge and experience that they have gained in a lifetime of struggle.

When Paul wrote when I was a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11), his focus was on the difference between our earthly/temporary existence and our heavenly/eternal existence.

Right now we see things from the perspective of a child – that is, limited by our humanness. Our understanding of life, the gift of salvation, God, His mercy, grace and forgiveness, the sacrifice of Christ, heaven, eternity and even who we will one day become are not what they will be.

That’s not to say that we don’t have some understanding of these things. Children possess an understanding, just not a complete one.

Think about it. Whatever you know about spiritual and eternal things is wonderful, but it’s like your reflection in the water. Someday you will see it all clearly and understand it perfectly. In the same way that God knows you (implied in the verse), you will understand all of the mysteries of salvation.

That’s awesome! And something to look forward to.

Is it any wonder that the Bible talks about heaven in terms of exuberant praise? Just wait. What you will someday learn will so expand your knowledge and understanding that you won’t be able to stop the praise from flowing. It will burst out of you like water bursting through a dam.

Someday You Will See.

Now I now partially, but then I shall know just as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve