I use a reader during the Advent season composed of various Christian authors called Watch for the Light. On one of the days, I was struck by a passage by J.B. Philips where he writes on our waiting for the second Advent, the Return of Jesus in all his glory,
The New Testament is indeed a book full of hope, but we may search it in vain for any vague humanist optimism. The second coming of Christ, the second irruption of eternity into time, will be immediate, violent and conclusive. The human experiment is to end, illusion will give way to reality, the temporary will disappear before the permanent, and the king will be seen for who he is. The thief in the night, the lightning flash, the sound of the last trumpet, the voice of God’s archangel—these may all be picture language, but they are pictures of something sudden, catastrophic, and decisive. By no stretch of the imagination do they describe a gradual process.
I believe that the athiestic-scientifc-humanist point of view is, despite its apparent humanitarianism, both misleading and cruel. In appearance it may resemble Christianity in that it would encourage tolerance, love, understanding, and the amelioration of human conditions. But at heart it is cruel, because it teaches that this life is the only life, that we have no place prepared for us in eternity, and that the only realities are those that we can appreciate in our present temporary habitations…
Have you ever wondered if your life mattered?
Think about it. There are billions of people on the planet and we’re spinning through the darkness of space, which simply seems unending. With this cosmic dance going on all around us, why on earth would our life count for something in a cosmos so immense?
Might I suggest that you matter because our Maker made you? As Mark Labberton puts it in his excellent book “Called,”
“We matter, and our calling matters, not because we’re the supreme test of anything but because we exist for the joy and satisfaction of our Maker, whose love alone enables us to flourish…we are ‘very good’ in God’s sigh because of bearing God’s image—not because we are fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) but just because we are.”
How joyous is this?
We matter because we’re God’s beloved. You matter because you are made by God and you are called to belong in a family.
Lately I have not had the urge to write on a regular basis. It’s not that my life is dull or I have suddenly lost all my opinions. No, it is because of something much simpler. I simply stopped.
To be honest though, I miss it.
I miss the creative outlet. I miss the consistency that resulted from it. I miss the ability to process what I’m going through on a regular basis. Most of all, writing brings me a good deal of comfort and I miss that.
I don’t know if I’ll ever aspire to the angst filled writing of Hemingway, seeking the one true word or sentence or chapter. That is simply too torturous for me. I find myself varying between the stream of consciousness posts, while other times I simply cut my finger and bleed on the page. Either way, I find a place of refuge in the written word.
I think that’s why I write.
I write for the same reason why I run—it brings freedom and a measure of hope. I write because it feels good after I have a completed a page (or mile) or two. I write because it brings joy and fullness. I write because it is a place I can inhale and exhale, working out frustrations with a mild dose of lucidity. To be dramatic, I write so that I can be free.
Why do you write?
Following Jesus will cost you something. It will cost you this: putting your whole life on a table and letting him remove certain things. Things that might be incredibly costly like your identity, vices, or library.
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered them all, and so overpowered them that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. 17 When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. 18 Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. 19 A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
Acts 19:11-20 (emphasis is mine)
Following Jesus will cost us something, even admitting the dark truth that is within our story. But friends, everything he removes he will replace with 10 times as much.
What might be the cost for you?
I have a confession for you all: I don’t think we can be authentic.
Even when we try to say we’re “being real” by swearing or being a total douche, our real self is buried deep under layer upon layer of choices, culture, and other environmental factors. I would argue that people who still claim to be authentic are not because they brush their teeth, comb their hair, and don’t shout out every single thought that comes to their mind. Well most people, anyways.
As Seth Godin wrote last month,
“Perhaps the only truly authentic version of you is just a few days old, lying in a crib, pooping in your pants.
“Ever since then, there’s been a cultural overlay, a series of choices, strategies from you and others about what it takes to succeed in this world (in your world).
“And so it’s all invented.
“When you tell me that it would be authentic for you to do x, y or z, my first reaction is that nothing you do is truly authentic, it’s all part of a long-term strategy for how you’ll make an impact in the world.
“I’ll grant you that it’s essential to be consistent, that people can tell when you shift your story and your work in response to whatever is happening around you, and particularly when you say whatever you need to say to get through the next cycle. But consistency is easier to talk about and measure than authenticity is.
“The question, then, is what’s the impact you seek to make, what are the changes you are working for? And how can you achieve that and still do work you’re proud of?”
It’s OK if you’re not authentic: just be honest.
Following Jesus, we will have moments of being uncool.*
The crowd is a fickle friend, and following it will often lead us down roads that are not in step with the Kingdom of God. Our thoughts and positions need to spring forth from faithfully following Scripture (with a measure of humility, see: When You’re Theologizing).
Following Jesus is countercultural and following him will require courage. Courage to speak truthfully. Courage to be winsome instead of a blustering bully. Sometimes, we will have to be fearless and resist the pressures of the crowds, choosing to fear God instead of a man or woman.
*some more than others
Have you ever been told by someone that you weren’t living a “victorious Christian life?” How about you need to claim certain promises or live by the philosophy of an author that start with O- and ends in -steen? The unfortunate news for these philosophizers is that the Christian life is not all marked by pleasant roads and pitstops. No, sometimes there is struggle.
Even Jesus had times of tremendous peace (think about the small revivals where he healed people in Galilee) and tremendous turbulence. Jesus dealt with pain and sorrow, and I don’t have to refer to the crucifixion to make this point. Jesus stood on a hill by Jerusalem and cried for the city to listen to their prophets and return to God. He wept on the road to Lazarus’ tomb. He no doubt suffered the sting of rejection by his family and neighbors in Nazareth!
In this life we will face both good and bad. The poet George Herbert puts it this way,I will complain, yet praise; I will bewail, approve: And all my sour-sweet days I will lament, and love.
Friends, if you have not suffered in some capacity, you will. But cling to the one who is well acquainted with sorrows, for he will strengthen your legs and lighten your weary load.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Do you have a tough time leaving work behind? I find that I am so susceptible to the phrase “we are what we do” instead of we are because of what Jesus has done.
I admit, I listen to the lies of the enemy and buy its fiction that what I do is never enough.
I don’t pray enough, read the Bible enough, and don’t do enough. In short, I need to bite off more than I can chew!
Friends, we need a break.
We need to follow after God’s heart and God rests. He made us in image and he imaged for us in Genesis a life of creating good things and then resting on a Sabbath. Essentially he communicates: “do as I do”.
Here are a few things that I’ve uncovered lately:
How do you rest?
Here’s a thought:
Augustine once said our hearts are restless apart from God.
Calvin once said our hearts are idol factories left to their own devices.
Reader, our hearts do indeed grow restless apart from God, and left to our own devices, we rest in front of idols of our own making. Left to our own devices, we will create idols to worship, idols of our own ego, politics, pleasure, or study.
So what we really need here is to rest and stop being busy!
Have a restless spirit? Try resting in the Author of rest.
I have found that stepping into new terrain and stepping into a position of leadership has been quite the transition (to say the least). But fortunately, I am neither the first and nor the last when it comes to taking on leadership positions. Here is a prayer of Solomon’s from Psalm 72:
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!