BETWEEN FUNERALS & WEDDINGS

lifeOne feature I appreciate about being a pastor is that it often forces me to look at life in its totality.  I remember a few Saturdays where I had left a funeral, doing my best to help loved ones find closure; to celebrate a wedding where life as a family was just beginning.  Such experiences have stretched my view of life and I am grateful.

 

Even at this moment, I am involved with a number of individuals in their closing chapters of this life, while I take part in a children’s camp focused on the opening chapters of theirs.

 

For people in ministry, three questions of life are always before them:

What can be done with one’s life?

What is being done with one’s life?

What has been done with one’s life?

 

Schedules are hectic and it is human nature to live in the day-to-day; but even so, those three questions hang over all of us, whether we give them attention or not.

 

So what does it take for you and me to honestly claim:

I am preparing to do the most with my life.

I am doing the most with my life.

I have done the most with my life.

 

When I try to envision what that looks like, I see the Apostle Paul.  He is an old man ravaged by age and hardship.  He is writing to a young man named Timothy who is just beginning his life of ministry.  This old man does not confess regrets or “should have been’s”.  Instead he writes:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Tim 4:7, 8)

 

Paul has done the most with his life and not only is he gratified rather than regretful, he is inspired by what is yet to come!  …Here’s the thing: Religion in itself, won’t make you into a “Paul.”  Being a “Christian” is no guarantee to fulfillment.  It goes deeper than that.  Jesus put it this way, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39)

 

God has designed us beyond animal instinct, beyond mere self-survival; we find our full humanity in how we GIVE, not in how we TAKE.  Christianity strives to align with the One who designed our humanity.  That is why giving is a core principle of the faith.

 

It’s a simple principle; the MOST in life cannot be experienced by taking.  It can only be experienced through giving.  That is how we are designed. That is where we find completeness.

 

Want the MOST in life?  Try giving it away; that’s how you just might find it.

Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.

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IT’S A NEW YEAR… OR IS IT?

newyearIt’s a new year, time to hit the big “reset” button on life, right?  Out with the old, in with the new; so we have new resolutions and visions on how this year is going to be different.  We almost convince ourselves that time is in distinct chunks that can be separated from each other.  –As if moving from December 31 to January 1 is like resetting the video game.

 

That can be a good way to think as we try to jump-start new thinking or habits.  However, the truth is, time is not segmented, it is one continuum.  Even as we celebrate the New Year, we know that we are still in the same situations, still involved in the same battles, and thankfully, still enjoying the same successes.

 

Does that mean we simply dismiss the arrival of a new year as a mere illusion?  No, but I would propose revisiting a very old word that brings the mileposts of time into perspective.  It’s a word that has been abused and distorted over time and unfortunately has become the sole property of the religiously zealous in our time.  In fact, when you hear the word, you may simply roll your eyes and move on to the next article.  But please hang in there for a paragraph or two.

 

The word is “repent.”  …Hello… still here?  Good.  When you hear the word, the first picture that may come to mind might be a John the Baptist type character wearing a sandwich board that says, “Repent, the end is near.”  It might be a red-faced preacher pounding a pulpit and shouting, “Repent of your sins and be saved.”  In reality, both characters fail the true meaning of the word, which is unfortunate, because the real meaning of the word is exactly what we need to face the New Year.

 

The New Testament had its teachings conveyed in the intricate language of ancient Greek.  A staple tool of the Greeks was the use of compound words.  They were a recipe to communicate the exact idea one wished to share.  The word, “repent” was in fact, such a word.  The original word is “metanoeo”; combining “meta” (after), and “nous” (the “noeo” part; meaning mind).

 

There is really no direct English translation for this “aftermind”, but essentially, it means– a person was going in one direction in their thought process, or “inner man”, and has now changed direction.  That change may be motivated by emotion, such as regret or remorse, or pure reason; simply being convinced there is a better way.  Or it might be a combination of the two.  But whatever the cause, to “repent” is the act of shifting the direction of the mind.  The connotation is a shift for the better.

 

That is the reality of a new year.  It is not really a break with the past; it is a change in direction from where we presently are.  That kind of change always starts in our thinking.  No matter what your change in direction; better living physically, intellectually, or spiritually, it will start with the direction of your mind.

 

It’s not surprising that the New Testament is filled with encouragement to change direction from where you currently are.   In Acts 2, when the crowd was convinced they needed to make changes in where they stood with God, the first word out of Peter’s mouth was “repent.” Acts 2:38

 

As you pass the milepost of 2016/2017, may I encourage you to the true meaning of “repent”?   There really is no “reset button”, in reality we can only change direction from where we presently are.

 

That being said; may you succeed in the shedding of your pounds, that project you vowed to finish, or whatever your New Year objective might be.  But most of all, whatever direction your mind takes, may it bring you a clearer view of God.   May that first but crucial step bring blessing to your New Year, and beyond.

–It is certainly food for thought.