Friday, April 29, 2016

Pivotal Passages- The Daunting Questions of Truth- John 5

All Scripture is amazing!

But I always stop at places I call "Pivotal Passages'- things so different, so deep, or show such a dramatic change that it gives me pause.

John 5 is one amazing passage of Scripture.

I keep coming back to it over and over and dwelling on those who become the sworn enemies of Jesus... those who swore to serve God Himself!

B.B. Warfield comments on this sudden change in John's gospel:

“The fifth chapter of John marks one of the great turning points of his narrative. Up to this point, he has given us great typical representations of how Jesus wrought faith in the hearts of His hearers... Now he begins to show us the development of the opposition. Here we have laid bare the springs, nature and deeds of unbelief... “In the fifth chapter the grounds of unbelief are laid bare to us, as rooted in an essentially self-seeking and worldly spirit.” B. B. Warfield. “Faith and Life.” iBooks.

Meditating on this passage brings great sadness to me.... mainly because the opposition that Jesus encounters is NOT from the heathens and sinners... the men seeking to destroy Jesus, the one's who are in the fatal grasp of dark, Satanic delusion and destruction are the religious ones. The ones who at some point devoted their life and calling to Jehovah.

Let's look at this passage- it is such a sudden change in the narrative, you feel the chill winds of opposition that will eventually culminate in the violent agony of the cross.

I am going to put in bold the daring 'Questions of Truth?"- Don't skim over them... these are dramatic pauses where you need to consider your eternal existence....

[1] After this (the woman at the well in Samaria and healing the official's son in Cana, Galilee)

there was a feast of the Jews (Passover), and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  

Jesus was directed in His ministry often to attend the big feasts and festivals.... I think we miss sometimes that He enjoyed life and likely squeezed every minute out of His day on mission and on purpose.... but I can only imagine times of smiling and rejoicing... but also with the Spirit leading Him.

[2] Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.

Don't overlook the gospels when they mention places.... this allows the Scriptures to be authenticated....these places exist... and we have no record of the critics or enemies AT THE TIME these letters and manuscripts were being spread... these accounts were close enough to the sources that living witnesses were available to correct and confirm....

 [3] In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 

Does it ever strike you that Jesus didn't heal EVERYONE? Think about that..... there is so much we don't know about the plans and purposes of God.... what about the lame man that Jesus did not heal that day? Who's to say that the eternal reward being built up for that man will so extinguish the earthly pain and misery that we will praise God with unimaginable awe struck emotions beyond words? We just do not see as God already sees and He is unbound by time.... these are mere seconds....

[5] One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

The man was an invalid before the earthly Jesus was even born.... but the Sovereign King of all creation had carefully guided everything to right this minute......

[6] When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed? 

Seems like a silly question..... but this is something to ponder. Any coach, parent, psychologist, employer will attest to this... 'I cannot help anyone who, in reality, doesn't really want to be helped'.

And this is not a point to debate Calvinism and Arminianism.... let's not go there...

This is a SIMPLE and HONEST question that CANNOT be answered in a quick reply... we all say 'Yes"- but is that the HONEST ANSWER...

Let me put it this way.... you find out you have a terminal illness... and you research it... and finally know the ONLY answer.... the region you are living in has a toxic gas that you are allergic to.

The doctor has assured you (and you agree that it is a true diagnosis) that if you pack up and moved just 100 miles away, you will live. But if you stay, you will slowly die and at some point the damage is irreversible.

And, instead of leaving immediately, you start debating with yourself. You LOVE where you live... it is the place of your friends and interests- you have invested so much time and work here, you have a reputation and status here....

So you start thinking.... OK, I need to leave... hmmm? Just not
Maybe next week...
Maybe things will change....
Maybe we are wrong......

Do you really WANT to be healed? If so, you will DO whatever it takes....... if you refuse to do... are you saying you really DON"T WANT to be healed?????

[7] The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

Maybe a deflection..... but possibly an honest answer... "I can't do this without outside help". Some people are invalids, yet they think they can still cure themselves and refuse help from anyone else. That pride is going to keep you an invalid...for decades and possibly, for eternity......

 [8] Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” [9] And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. 

As much as I would like to elaborate and debate on monergistic salvation and synergistic sanctification.... I will REFUSE.

Jesus calls in power and authority. But we do respond. Our works do NOT save us.... but if there is NO RESULT from the call of Christ... was there a call? Why are we refusing to respond the calling of Jesus to be healed?????

Now that day was the Sabbath. 

Jesus does not waste anything... purposeful for the man, purposeful for the occasion as well....

[10] So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 

The Sabbath defenders attack! I pray I don't do this...Lord, help me show love and compassion.

[11] But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” [12] They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
 [13] Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 

Jesus withdraws and is distant at times- but always for a purpose and always for our good

[14] Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” [15] The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 

This is an interesting way to put it- sin is serious business- it has consequences- we play with it way too much! 

[16] And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 

The pharisees cannot see the forest from the trees- Jesus will say it very clearly at the end of this passage....

[17] But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 

This is one of those great statements that you can take out and use...regardless of context- there is some working on the Sabbath.. it is a principle... and important one.... and if I am honest I will tell you that I don't remember the Sabbath and keep it holy like I should.... but our tendency to be legalists never ceases!

[18] This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Here is the charge,,,BLASPHEMY they know what Jesus is saying... and it deserves severe punishment...UNLESS IT IS TRUE. Also, don't you love that Jesus refers to God as FATHER!

[19] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 

Jesus is our gift to see God in a human way.... remember what Paul said in Colossians 1?
He is the image of the invisible God....(Colossians 1:15 ESV)

[20] For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. [21] For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. [22] The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, [23] that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 

Here is a key component of judgment AND a reason for God's wrath.... it is all about what you have done with the Son... Love the Son and live... Honor the Son and receive honor... He is plenty worthy of it... BUT- disregard, dishonor, and dismiss the Son and you are in the direct line of fire for the Father's wrath.... not a scare tactic.. just a merciful truth... at least we have been told!

[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 

This sounds so simple.... is it too simple for you to believe? We trust simple things all the time. We trust light switches to do their job, we trust pencils to lay down carbon lines, we sit in chairs in rooms without a thought of testing them out---- and you know what is crazy? I have flipped switches with no power, groaned at pencils with no lead, and had chairs break underneath me.... God though has never failed me and never will.

[25] “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 

In great humility I profess that you are reading one of these dead men's testimonies... I was so lost, so lonely, and so empty until the beautiful voice of the Savior called to me... He will bring the death to life even today... maybe as you are reading this... and now LIVE!

[26] For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. [27] And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. [28] Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice [29] and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 

Please do not miss this... it may be 'easy' to be a skeptic... it may be cool to keep Jesus at arm's length... but Jesus has told you the truth... all evil will burn in an unspeakable wrath... does that not give us chills?

 [30] “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

No one will be able to accuse Jesus on the day of judgment

Now we come to irrefutable evidences and testimony about WHO Jesus is... pay attention to the evidence- it is NOT subjective.. this is authoritative and trustworthy testimony:
The testimony of John the Baptist
The voice of God at His baptism
The works of Jesus
The Sacred Scriptures

After this... we will have the death and resurrection and finally the blood confirmed testimony of the apostle....

Read the evidence for yourself:

 [31] If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. [32] There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. [33] You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. [34] Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. [35] He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. [36] But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. [37] And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, [38] and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. [39] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

But for some reason, evidence is always rejected by those unwilling to come....

 [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

 [41] I do not receive glory from people. [42] But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. [43] I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 

Here is one of the saddest truth questions of all.....

[44] How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 

and the final irony? These men were the legal experts in the one knew Moses better than these religious zealots... but Jesus points out that their pride is their undoing....

[45] Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. [46] For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 

The Truth Question of Doom......

[47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” 

Do you get it? We can know things that we really don't believe.

Please, my friend struggling in doubt, submit in love to Jesus...come on home... the battle's over- Christ has won!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"The Hidden Life"- Your Key to Successful Social Media

One of the great challenges of Christian discipleship is a faithful, energetic, and throughly Biblical response to a daily question...."Now what?" 

It comes right after we have chosen to believe there is a meaningful answer when we asked, "So what?".

It is so much harder than we ever imagined it to be..... actually, impossible!

Our human nature is to answer that question with a list of actions..... "What are we now to do?"
And Jesus constantly has to re-arrange the priority... 'Who am I to BE?"

But the Bible is not an instruction book ... it is a prescription book. And like any prescription, patients must be very careful and diligent... this is powerful stuff- but it is contained in careful boundaries to avoid mis-use and abuse. And it is governed under the DOCTOR'S oversight.

So God, who NEVER, stops pressing, lifting, prodding, pulling, caressing me to better pastures... continues to do so... and the lessons I am learning I write and tell.... and because I am still way too prideful and selfish- it creates a mixed agenda... I do this as an exercise... everything I do has some stain of sin on it- but in faith I ask the Lord to allow it to be effective in glorifying Him and helping others.  And then on the backside, I always know the danger- making myself look good... seeking approval and applause... adding good deeds of outweigh the bad... a useless make-up attempt to avoid my real problems and failures....

So I wanted one more time to address the ever growing problem and possibility of the explosion of the virtual world and my ongoing and active participation in it....  it is a reality and a non-reality.. it is, after all, a code of dust that matters...but without true significance.

By the way.. my journey in this is mixed with a grand paradox I find in Scripture- the push- pull command to speak out and shut up...... like any paradox, it makes sense on a full investigation... and like any God paradox produces the tension to keep us on a narrow road with ditches on both sides.

Are you old enough to remember the Don Francisco song... "I Gotta Tell Somebody"?

There are times Jesus said 'Don't tell' and, by golly,... they did anyway...

Be patient with me here- I know each of these has a context:

And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it” (Matt 9:30).

Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them” (Mark 1:43-44).

When Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead,  he “strictly charged them that no one should know” about it (Mk. 5:43).

On still another occasion, when Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute, he charged the entire crowd to tell no one. “But the more he charged them,” it says, “the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mk. 7:36).

And the Leper? After Jesus said 'Don't tell anyone'... Mark records....

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter (Mk. 1:45)

But there are times Jesus said "Tell"-

After the dramatic healing of the Gerasene demoniac from the power of Satan, and the man “begged that he might be with him… Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’” (Lk. 8:38-39)

And on Palm Sunday, when the religious rulers and authorities asked Jesus to silent the crowd as the cheered 'Hosanna"- The New Living Translation puts His reply like this:
 "If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!"

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
And the final command of Jesus involves telling AND teaching:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

So....  do these individual situations give us direction to whether we should or should not post to social media... what do we say... how much do we do it?

Not surprisingly, I found recent help from an old source.... B.B. (Benjamin Breckinridge) Warfield, professor of theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921.

I read his commentary recently on "The Hidden Life"- thoughts about Colossians 3:4

If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)

So, please permit me to let an old saint...who could not have imagined Twitter or Facebook or Snap Chat.... orient us with a foundational truth of Christian discipleship.

'If then you have been raised" is an assumption of a fact.... that we died- this is explicit in the previous chapter 2- we died and were buried with Christ - (an amazing chapter by the way- incorporating circumcision and baptism in the imagery)

SO the life we have is a 'hidden life' - but we are not absent. 

So what does 'Hidden' mean:

I like what B.B. suggests here- I took his eloquent language and paraphrased it in a much clumsier but comprehensible way...

Our hidden life is:
being good without understanding
doing good without recognition
accomplishing good without applause,
It is also a quiet life

So what does this mean? When we post, publish, pin, tweet.... we are not representing ourselves primarily... we are choosing, walking, speaking, and doing in the name of another- our loving Savior and King.

If our life comes in conflict with the world- we choose the King's way- regardless of the consequences. Indeed, we should expect criticism, misunderstanding, and different forms of persecution.

Now- there are  HUGE AND COOL motivations / applications of this.......


B.B. says our motivation involves past, present, and future realities:

Past motive: Reflection on our  our salvation. The cross was proof of the powerful sacrificial love of Jesus. Your response to the good news was so powerful it resulted in  a new birth and eternal life!

Present motive- Christ is no longer humbled on that cross...He is now an exalted king. We are one with him, Therefore we should walk with a nobility.

 Future Motivation- there will be a reward and a vindication before others. Wait for it. 
Here is how B.B. said it:

“When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall we also with him be manifested in glory." The vindication, even before men, will come. We shall not always be misunderstood; we shall have the reward. And what a reward! Co-manifestation with Christ in glory! Do not our hearts spring within us with hope and joy!”


All of this... and now, here we are- back at social media......


By all means, Christians should participate in social media. It is a fast moving marketplace of the global community of humans. But using it can create a danger of importance. It is useful but not ultimate.

My suggestion is to test yourself and unplug at various seasons and for various times. 

And one I am adding for the immediate future. I am going to get a normal alarm clock and plug my phone up at night in another room. It is a huge time robber... and sleep disturber.

Keep God's Word as the compass of your life. The flood of messaging in this world is not bound or subject to God's Word- there is little virtue in the virtual world.

Don't scan the Bible- it has to 'richly dwell in you' .


This seems simple... but the deadliest disease of social media is that you become the hero of your story and the whole world is noticing you.... DANGER-DANGER-DANGER

The virtual world DOES NOT LOVE YOU BACK. It is a huge liar and unfaithful partner. It pushes a false perception.... and Satan jumps in the middle of it with His whisper campaign "Look the whole world is doing awesome... poor, pitiful you!"

Let Jesus and real people be the lover of your life.......


At the end of everyday... ask your King... His like and comment is the only thing that matters. Wait for Him and trust Him.


The internet isolates.... and it is not good for man to be alone... some people think they have hundreds of friends... but an avatar is not a real person... it may represent a real person...but like any online persona... it is flat... it is not flesh and blood.

I used to tell my football team-" that 21 year old beautiful girl in Los Angeles you are chatting with online is really a 65 year old man in a trailer down by the river"...... think about it. Again- not a lot of virtue in the virtual world!

1 or 2 actual human friends is more valuable than a billion online friends.... be careful....

God made faith a community exercise. It is no different than taking a stick out of a itself, it will smolder, smoke, and finally turn cold. You MUST make yourself find a community of believers and you MUST make time for them and you MUST forgive them of their shortcomings and hypocrisy as they do yours.

Struggling with this one? Go and serve someone.... it will kill the growing narcissism that is corrupting your heart.



The virtual world is a lighted carbon fantasy that is as useless as an old dead I-Phone....

Be real... Be honest- Authenticity gives real meat to your hidden life in Jesus. I believe it is immoral to have a fake online ID unless it is for purposes of protection from a real danger (like a missionary in a dangerous land). Instantly delete ANY fake online personas or they will destroy the real you!

Humans always default to moral codes to lift us up and bind others..... don't do this...

Continually point to the glorious gospel - it is our only HOPE. the rest of Colossians after this glorious statement....

Here is just a piece of it's beauty...

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)

This includes your on-line life..........

The WORLD needs truth....... and that is a PERSON.... When people see you..pray that they see the Savior!

FINAL ADVICE: Be wise- you don't have to share your deepest secrets in a wide open way either- show some discretion..... Be optimistic, honest.... but WISE. The world doesn't NEED to know some things about us!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Presuppose" The Story

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 

You are considering the 'story' you have been told your whole life. All around you is evidence that this story has a long history with humans. So you ask me to tell you why I believe it is no mere myth.

'Let's assume for the sake of the argument that the Creator does exist. He not only created all of the natural world- but He also supernaturally revealed, watched over, protected his written communication to mankind. This narrative is the creation, fall, redemption, and ultimate consummation of all things. The story is pieced together in a variety of ways- Nature itself is a piece- The history of Israel and their Sacred writings are a piece- The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the apex of the story- The God-breathed writings of eye-witnesses are another important part- sealed with martyrs blood. According to John Calvin- knowing yourself is a piece of this mystery- the shared deep inner life and complex outer life of human beings throughout history.

I want to mention another important part of this tale. There is such a vast difference between the Creator and the creature that He must reveal Himself in an accommodating way. Our first mistake is that we think of "God' like He is some sort of super-human..but He is something beyond ALL OF OUR UNDERSTANDING. God's  'teaching technique' (revelation) is NOT pretense for it does reveal truth and reality. But it is revealed truth in a way that can be understood. And the understanding takes place in time and history. And it is so simple yet takes TIME for it to make sense.

The grand story contains another plot development- this is where you and I come in- we show up in the story and find ourselves in a world gone wrong. How did that happen you ask? The Creator created a good world (without Him we wouldn't even really know what 'good' is)- part of life's goodness was pure freedom. The capacity to love and have relationship is maximized in the power of choice. The King gave the subjects unbound freedom- not only the 'possibility of evil' but a 'probability' of evil because of the amazing talents and powers of these creatures.

Previous to the human story- there seems to have already been those who chose the 'NO' option:' I will do it my way'- the true character of the Creator requires consequences for violation of His nature. Notice He does not choose here- this is what He is.

This fateful rebellion also happened in the human realm. SO that all of creation bears the marks of a 'curse'. One result of this curse and rebellion is the emergence of three distinct enemies to the Kingdom of the Creator. The world ( the unified system of rebellion)- the flesh (the default mode of the rebel)- and the devil (a supernatural leader of a powerful army of rebels).

One more item in this story is a 'transferable disease' in the creature- a natural desire to rebel - which results in a separation from the Creator. Indeed, the core of this message is the Creator's actions to restore the divide.

The great character in this story is the Hero- the Creator/King/Father- giving up His begotten (not created) Son- who emptied Himself of His Royal Rule- becoming a creature Himself- living in perfect obedience in the face of enemies- and then paying the punishment of a rebel- fulfilling the shadows of the sacrificial system that has been practiced throughout human history- appeasing the wrath of the Creator by the shedding of blood and offering sacrificial worship.

The Creator accepts this great sacrifice as a substitute for rebellion. His wrath is satisfied in the blood of His Son. This King affirmed His acceptance by raising the son from the dead and bestowing on Him universal honor- salvation is in His name alone.

So there is now a way back to the King. Those who were once rebels may lay down their arms and come home. The creatures have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Son. The once sworn enemies are now not only cleared of their crimes but even adopted into the royal family. These sons are now heirs. The terms of this covenant? A willingness to be ruled and a trust in the Son's sacrifice.

Though many still refuse- they will get better and better at refusing Him- ultimately sealing their eternal state. The Creator Himself overcomes the rebellious spirit of some- allowing many to accept restoration. Their stories are strikingly similar "I once was a rebel determined for death but now I am a royal son and a high priest to my Father the King. What a gracious ruler He is."

Be very careful in this part.... push yourself a little here...."Am I willing to be a little suspicious about my judgements and opinions ?".... you can do this

Though you have been exposed to the narrative, you come to point in your life where you begin to weigh whether this story is real or myth. How on earth can you validate a Creator who is seen only by the accommodating structures He has used? People tell you all kinds of things, but who is trustworthy? How can you know what path to choose? Is it important.

A huge problem is that IF the story is true then you are going to be infected with the attitude of resistance. If that is are trying to judge based with  a pre-wired attitude. One friend whispers 'hogwash'- 'another man says 'trust'- your inner voices are pulled and there is a mighty battle being waged way down deep- so deep that we have to use a metaphor... the heart. Yes-I'm telling you that you should also regard yourself with a healthy suspicion.

This battle takes place over time- it is a fight for years- there is weariness and doubt and inconsistencies all around.

But once again you come to a quiet moment and ask the most dangerous question a man can ask- "What if I am wrong?"- "IF the story is true then I am deceived and cannot judge the validity of the message in a neutral way- I am biased- I don't evaluate evidence- I twist it- I rationalize it- What am I to do?"

Soon, though, the thoughts slip away and you notice something- you are stronger now in your doubts. You meet others who are stronger still. It is not long before you meet some who reject the story as myth and even mock the claims.

You see that there are staged debates where each side offers up their arguments and evidence- but no one is ever swayed. The loyalists celebrate their 'slam dunk win' and the 'rebels roll their eyes at the foolish faith of the 'believers".

Then you met me, and you somehow venture into this battle that now only feels like a routine of ideas in your 'heart'. It doesn't take long to see that I am a 'believer'. After a series of meaningless points and counter points, you ask me the deadly question: "Aren't you just biased and hiding behind your 'faith'."

My response feels like a win for you at first, but also pushed your first angry button. 

"Of course I am biased. Of course I am living by faith. But you are too!"

This frustrates you: "I am not a person of faith- I have facts and science."

I respond again: "You are confident in your evidence. I am confident in my evidence. But do we really have proof as we discuss evidence? If we stop here, we both are left with probabilities."

Something strange begins to happen- you are opening yourself up just a little. You feel weak on the inside but would never show it on the outside. It is a quiet thought- He's right- we are both biased and I am putting some faith in my logical arguments and evidences.

Then the most dramatic question you have ever pondered comes screaming into your soul.

I say, 'Let's try something different- You know, we have spent all of this time arguing the King's narrative of why the things are the way they are and why we are here.

'Tell me this- Let's remove the Creator completely out of the picture. Tell me your grand story. How did all of this get to be. How do we even have grounds to share our story. Where do the rules of logical analysis come from to evaluate the story? Where does the will to reject the story come from? Why does it even matter? Remember- no miracle allowed."

You know that there has to be a big bang in there somewhere- but other than that - you realize that you have a lot of fantastical statements you are about to make. And deep down you know that not even you will buy it.

You look at me and even have a sense of anger. You think I am an arrogant, foolish, prude. If I say I care for you- you won't believe it. And if you watch me long enough you will see my inconsistencies. But you also see that I really believe the message of grace.

Once more you consider the narrative- What if I am in rebellion to the living Creator/King? And you want to fight the cynic in you that says 'it just sounds too easy to be true."

I continue to pray for you. I know you can't win this battle- I am asking the real Father- the Creator- The King to shine His love deep down and open your eyes to His glorious love and truth. "Father- please do for him right now what you have done for me. I don't deserve your grace- please welcome this lost son home."

You attack again with questions: 

What about the hypocrites? I say look at the Son. 
What about injustice? I say look at the Son. 
What about those who never hear? I say "You have just heard- what are you going to do? Look at the Son."

And a little tear forms in your eye- you want to come home- it is too weary a fight and without hope. You want the despair and fear to leave. You want an embrace. It is no longer about an argument of ideas.....

 it is now about the deepest thirst of your soul......

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Young Millennials, Old Mistakes, and Forever Goodness

To any adult millennial- 18 to 33 years old- born about the time of my high school graduation in 1982 or younger..... please forgive me.

And I don't say that lightly or flippantly... I say with earnest tears...please forgive me!

It took me way too long to realize my mistakes..... especially my apathy and casualness in presenting any human being the true source of hope and meaning.

I regret that I fell in love with an idea and I tried to sell you an idea in the same way we sell cars and dryers.....

I suffer much heartache when I think of how I wanted to excel in intellect, but did so little in kind acts and overflowing mercy....

I killed way too many people with the truth- I was so right.. I was dead right... and I was the epitome of the 'noisy gong' in I Corinthians 13.

When it was my time to defend the truth- I buried it like the unrighteous steward... I legalized it like the whitewashed Pharisees, I cowered from it like the faithless disciples on the night of Jesus's arrest.

I shot down too many for not dotting an I or crossing a T..... instead of listening to them..I drowned out wounded spirits in condemning regulations like 'do not handle' and 'do not touch'.

Forgive me for thinking that my clever slogans for speaking the gospel seemed hollow because I displayed it too little.

I lifted my hands in praise for my winning football teams, I jumped and danced to my favorite bands in concert... and slept in way too many Sundays with the excuse that I am not a legalist.

And so I do not blame you if you are confused about truth... angry about injustice... disillusioned with the church... apathetic toward the Word.

I thought I could excite you with a gospel of clever words.... but in reality a Christless gospel is no gospel at all.

And I could walk away...sing Amazing Grace and shrug my shoulders and say "Oh well, the end is nigh"- "I've had my time in the sun.... I'm ready for you to come back, Jesus, and leave these Screen Junkies to find hope in the dust".

But forgiveness works two major miracles-

One-  I stand before you completely justified in the blood of jesus Christ... my sin has been cancelled and I am an adopted son of the King of Kings. This is not fair by the way... it is grace!

and Two-

It's never too late to try again..... in fact love COMPELS me to not give up on you!

So let me do it much better....

Fall in LOVE with Jesus.... in SPITE of His failing followers like me... Here is how He puts it:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 ESV)

Be Kind to Sinners- they NEED Jesus...not your fancy life opinion soliloquies....

And don't be angry when God tells you the truth...He is not robbing you of autonomy or fun... He is SAVING you from the regret of all the ashes and dust of empty promises in the sin cursed world.

Finally, Search HIM out.... and you will find a life sustaining reason for following Him...

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

Don't follow Him because it works....because often it looks broken and mysterious... cast your very soul on Him simply because HE IS TRUE!

And watch me... a 51 year old full of mistakes and regrets... but still young at heart and committing another day to slay dragons and swim in streams of living water....

Not because I am good...oh no no no... that I HAVE learned.... 

It is because HE IS GOD!

Monday, April 18, 2016

God's Water

for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
(Jeremiah 2:13 ESV)

Part of any training program is water. In fact, if you aren’t drinking water- I don’t think your body can adequately respond to any discipline you are doing. Has your weight loss hit a plateau? Kick up your water intake. Not sleeping well? Drink a glass of water before bedtime.
Here in Jeremiah 2- we have a sad and tragic choice. God’s people…believers… children of the covenant.. have rejected God, the fountain of living water (sin 1) and have made for themselves cisterns (wells or jars) – and they are broken cisterns that leak out and are dry (sin 2).
Are you thirsty? Yes… you have deep thirsts– you and I have deep desires.
Some of these universal desires are to be loved, to be secure, to have our lives matter…..
And, there is only one true source to find an adequate Thirst Quincher.
But we reject the One who can satisfy and run to all the other things in this world that promise to fill us up, but THEY ALL  fail in the process.
Fortune?….. Fame?…. Power?… Pleasure?….
Another job? A vacation? Another life? Another wife?
and we know the answer….NO- NO- NO-NO-  They only satisfy…temporarily
 We didn’t need Mick Jagger to tell us that we can’t get no satisfaction- (though we try).
U2 still haven’t found what they are looking for (though I hear Bono gets it).
And Frank Sinatra reminds us that he was’ riding high in April and shot down in May’ (been there..done that).
 C.S. Lewis wrote about these deep desires. In Mere Christianity he made the observation that desires exist and humans do funny things with them. They sometimes deny them or suppress them OR they run around trying every kind of succor for them.
He also said, if desires exist, the thirst-quincher exists. Babies want food… and there is milk. Ducks want to swim … and there is water.
And his culminating thought?

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

Are you thirsty, my friend?   Try ‘living water’ and here’s to finding it!
Just because this world has let you down, time and time again, does not mean that God is absent.
‘Living Water’ is available in infinite supply.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” [8] (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) [10] Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” [11] The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? [12] Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” [13] Jesus said to her,“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:7-14 ESV)

If any person had known the inadequacy of this world to satisfy, it was this woman. Not only had she failed time and time again to find peace and satisfaction… her life was marked with loneliness, isolation, and separation. Can you imagine how people must have talked about her, and treated her? But Jesus loved her.
Has life left you dry and empty?… yet?… because IT WILL! I see pictures sometimes from ‘the party at spring break’ and I always wonder when it will ‘crash and burn’. I remember when it happened to me.
But the well of grace of living water not only flows to sinners, it flows through sinners– not only cleansing us, but bubbling out to others. In fact, if you read the entire passage, at the end- the whole village was coming out to Jesus to see the amazing man that had treated this samaritan outcast with love, hope, and forgiveness.
I have always admired how humble this thirsty woman was to Jesus… she was ready. A few years ago, I wrote a dialogue where I changed the ‘attitude’ of the woman at the well. Instead of humble and thirsty… I made her hard hearted and bitter. What would have happened if her heart response was different?
Thankfully, what is written below IS NOT what happened…….
Jesus Meets the Woman at the Well- with a TOTAL DIFFERENT RESPONSE– borrowing from the Message Bible.

To get to Galilee, Jesus had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
The woman said, “I am not buying your line and if you talk to me again, you are asking for trouble.”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
“What do you know of thirst, or of want. How dare you judge me, you piece of jewish filth.”
He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
“This is what I thought it would be, a self-righteous morality check” she said.   
“I am only asking about things that are well known and true.You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. Your heart is hardened in your denial of God’s moral law and you are experiencing consequences because of it.”
“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.”It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “Useless words”
“I am the Messiah,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.” Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
The woman quickly grabbed her water pot, cursed Jesus, and ran back to town. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who propositioned me, told lies about God, and deserves to die!” And they went out to destroy Jesus on account of what the woman said.

You have to be thirsty to respond well to the offer of grace. And you have to be humble and yielding to HIM. My prayer is that we will always be of an attitude to respond in grace to grace…. and we cry to God to make our hearts receptive. Lord, show us our thirst… then pour on us Your living water.
Training doesn’t build us up… in reality, it breaks us down… and then we come back better.
But to do any of this on our own effort is like trying to run a marathon without water.
Please let His water pour on you today- for cleansing… and for life!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What About the Body?- The Physical Training of a Believer

In 2014 I wrote a devotion everyday for 365 of the toughest projects I have ever done. Each month had its own theme and April has always been a diet and exercise month for me. The Christian view of the body is unique among the world religions (especially a bodily resurrection).... this is part of that series. You can find all of my devotions here:

The Physical Training of a Believer- It is Worth the Fight!

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? [13] But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. [14] And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. [15] We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. [16] For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. [17] And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. [18] Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [19] If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
[20] But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [21] For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. [23] But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. [24] Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. [25] For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. [26] The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-26 ESV)

Corinthians 15 is my favorite chapter in all of the Bible. In fact, I have already skipped a ton of the good stuff to get to these ideas about life, death, and a bodily resurrection.
What does a resurrection mean to us who are learning to train physically in this present age? Why not just let your body decay to dust..because we are all getting a perfect body on the day of glory?
The power punch of this answer is delayed until vs. 58… but all of the lead up to it is of vital importance.
Let me rabbit trail a little bit and mention that this has been a criticism of Christianity in the past, but more recently from the new, bolder and colder atheists. The opponents of The Faith say that our preoccupation with the life after death causes us to be mundane about present problems in life. “Why should Christians care about the environment or the poor? They believe it is all going to be burned. What is their motivation to make things better?
That theory may make logical sense, but it hasn’t played out in history when you see the full story.
C.S. Lewis said it best,
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.                                          

The question is why?
The answer is that we obey the commands from God… to be good stewards, to love neighbors, to serve, to take care of the temple, to live simple and godly lives, to say NO to sinful passions.
I know this sounds trite, but how many hospitals or orphanages were set up by God deniers? I don’t ever remember seeing,”Free-Thinkers Home for the Blind” and even if they did exist, they would be out numbered a million to 1!
Back to the main gist of today’s devotion…. a big key on living disciplined lives to the glory of God is to FIGHT the enemy- death. Christ fought death and won! We are motivated to fight it as well.
I hate death…I hate cancer… I hate Lou Gehrig’s disease… I hate violence… I hate suicide…. I hate even so called ‘natural death’.
I will welcome it when the time comes- but my plan is to take it head on and look forward to the very next moment… “absent from the body….present with the Lord”.
So to me, the physical training of a disciple is, in a sense, a battle royal of defiance against the curse of death.
And we agree with Paul.. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Your philosophy of death impacts your philosophy of life.

[27] For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. [28] When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
[29] Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? [30] Why are we in danger every hour? [31] I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! [32] What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” [33] Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” [34] Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
(1 Corinthians 15:27-34 ESV)

Remember Pat Benatar? “Love is a battlefield”. Paul was a fighter. But he fought with a great attitude and sense of purpose.
What is your philosophy of death?

If you believe there is ‘no life after death’ then you basically believe that life has no real meaning.
A great proof of this is the famous poem by William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis”– from where I borrow the title of my internet title ‘jayopsis’.

Bryant wrote the first draft of Thanatopsis as a teenager, and reading it still gives me chills. It is a remarkable ‘view of death’ Thanatos- death and ‘Opsis’- eyesight or view.

I don’t have time to go through the whole poem.. but it basically says that nature soothes us when we are overcome by the darker thoughts of death and the world is one huge cemetery of all the souls who have walked before us. Kings and criminals, rich and poor, young and old, married and unmarried will live and all die the same death.
Bryant says, “And each on as before will chase his favorite phantom”. Notice his truth? IF all we do is die and decay and become food for a tree root- then life is just a ghost. It doesn’t matter if you were full of vice or virtue.

His final consolation? Don’t go to your death kicking and screaming… go by laying down on a luxurious bed and drift off to sweet dreams……

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.

But now for… the rest of the story.
Paul also knows that there is a resurrection and what you do in this life has utmost importance for the next!
[33] Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” [34] Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

So when we live- eating and drinking- no restraint- no regard of recognition of God.. we are actually proving that we do not really believe in life after death. Though God’s name is on our lips, and though we do the routines of religion.. our choices and lifestyle often are proof of the so-called ‘practical atheists’.
Yes- life is a struggle. It is hard living against the grain. Paul was pressed on every side!
We feel just as pressed….
You have been working hard..... has your regiment gotten stale? old? Are you ready to call it quits?

Hang on… there is a great reason to keep digging.. and the great culminating pump up speech comes in just a few days!
If you want to read “Thanatopsis” you can find it here:“Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant

[35] But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” [36] You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. [37] And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. [38] But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. [39] For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. [40] There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. [41] There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
[42] So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. [43] It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. [44] It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. [45] Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. [46] But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. [47] The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. [48] As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. [49] Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
(1 Corinthians 15:35-49 ESV)

Part of our physical training is a discipline routine to help us in our fight of life and death.

Questions of death and especially how we die has always been on the forefront of my gospel awakening. I became a Christian after we experienced the loss of a high school classmate and I stood looking into the great chasm of the mysterious permanence and knew I was not prepared.
It is quite OK to hate death- to despise cancer- to curse the curse- the key question is…. How do you approach death? Is it secure? Can you die with dignity?
I was first asked these questions by my spiritual mentor, Mr Bill Stegall, on a beautiful golf course on a brilliant fall day. Mr Stegall used to take me out, beat me in golf (he was in his early 70’s and I was in my late 20’s). During those rounds he would ask me questions… about marriage, the Bible, leadership, stewardship..etc. I would answer and he would clarify… every now and then he would say one word ‘EXCELLENT’ and I would feel his supreme satisfaction, like I had hit a home run to win the game.
One that beautiful day, Mr Stegall talked about the glory of the leaves changing for the Fall. And he hit me with the deepest question:
” Jay, all my friends are dying…
these were men who built factories, developed businesses, led churches, strong men.. but now they just seem to wither like scattered leaves… so answer me this…
How do you die with dignity?”
I knew better than to give it a hasty or foolish response- “I’ll have to think on that one Mr Stegall” and we played on.
Great literature has always wrestled with these ideas:
ROMEO:Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,      (maw is stomach)Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth,Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,And, in despite, I’ll cram thee with more food! 

Do not go gentle into that good night,Old age should burn and rage at close of day;Rage, rage against the dying of the light.                       
 Dylan Thomas- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

BUT- it was this chapter, I Corinthians 15, that gave me the solid answer he needed to hear.
Death is a humiliation- we die in weakness and we are raised in glory.
We are sown in dishonor as a perishable seed… but we sprout new life and glory.
I was on the golf course a few weeks later and Mr Stegall had not forgotten my assignment.
Jay, have you been thinking about my question.. How do you die with dignity?”
“Yes Sir, I have… a lot.”
“Well, Mr Stegall, I have been reading I Corinthians 15 and I don’t think we die with dignity. Death is  sin’s  last knockout blow- if we live long enough, we end in shame. We are a man once and a baby twice. Frail..weak…dependent.”
“But Paul makes it clear- we are sown in dishonor but we are raised in glory. We go down in shame, we are raised in victory. Christ has done so for us!”
“Our job is to fight like heck until that last dying breath, which is the great glorious trumpet call of God as He calls us home. If we die in Christ, we do die with honor, no matter what it may look like.”
He looked with deep eyes and a low voice.. “EXCELLENT!”

A few years later I held his hands and prayed. The robust 6’5″ man of God had been withered by bone cancer, but he was ready for glory.
Sin causes ignominious ends- men get old and just slip away. Or someone goes untimely in the spring of life. No one escapes it. It happens to bodies, it happens to careers.
BUT…. there is hope. And that is why I never tire of telling the good news of Christ. Please reach out to Him while there is breath and a heart beat.
Longfellow said our heartbeats are muffled funeral marches to a grave. Do not go into that darkness, that mysterious realm of permanence without Jesus. The Lord of nail scarred hands- stretched out in love.
And if we have Jesus… we walk in the valley of the shadow of death with resurrection power- a power that gives us that ability to rage against the night…..
But the best news is still coming in this great chapter…….
[50] I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [51] Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
[55] “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

[58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ESV)

Paul endured tough times and fought good battles for a glorious purpose.
He staked all he had on a resurrection of the dead.
He met the resurrected Jesus on the road of rebellion.
And then he became a rebel for the gospel!
And we are training…. but it sometimes seems like our work is in vain.

How many times have I felt the urge to give it all up?
How many goals have I left lying in a heap of ruins.
Or how many improvements have I made to see it all slip away in a vapor?
Why try?

Sometimes I find myself agreeing with ‘Thanatopsis”, just lie down and get it over with… all I am doing is chasing a whisper… a dream… a fantasy.
And I agree with Paul’s logic… if there is no resurrection of the dead, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!
But I see two powerful statements at the end of this glorious chapter…
“Victory through Jesus Christ!”- it is not my victory. It is His victory. He has already won the war. If it were up to me, we would be in deep trouble. But “thanks be to God”.. it is victory through Him.
And then my theme verse. This is the one that has kept me going. This is the one that keeps me getting up every time I either fall down or get slapped to the ground.
[58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Things I do for this life only are really things done in vain.
But nothing I do for the Lord is ever done in vain.
As I try to keep my goals today.. I always need to think of them as ‘labor in the Lord’.
If I do that… it all has value and it all has purpose.
Does that help you to ‘stand firm’, ‘steadfast’, ‘immovable’, ‘abounding in work’?
If you are a student, and your grades are slipping, think about dedicating your study as worship… a labor in the Lord… enjoy Him. My oldest daughter used to play praise music while she studied as a reminder that it was her mission for the Lord at that time in her life.
If you are an addict, and the urge is still there… even after months or years… get up and keep fighting.. as a love sacrifice to the One who rose from the dead to purchase your immortality.
If you are a parent, and tired of fighting the frustration of balancing love, discipline, and training… don’t quit… your labor in the Lord is NOT IN VAIN.
If your marriage is on the rocks, if the bills are mounting up, if you feel like your prayers are going unheard…. claim these promises from the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

It sure helps me here on this mediocre spring day! Easter season is still pressing in…..the battle if life and death is still pressing on..... how can we not get fired up!