Archive for October, 2014|Monthly archive page

Ready

Are you ready to die?

A tough question to ask of anyone – myself included.

It occurs to me for two reasons – the recent death of a friend in his 50s and the tragic shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial in Ottawa.

Both men had much to look forward to – Cirillo was in his 20s with hopes of a long career as a soldier and our friend was still active as a dedicated public servant in the federal government.

I remember my family doctor being concerned about what appeared to be a heart problem when I was in my early 50s. Our children were not yet fully launched in life – a couple of them were still in school. I did not want to die.

My imagination was over-active and it turned out my family doctor was wrong – I did not have a serious heart problem.

I believe most of us put off thoughts of death until we are old. And even then, we may push it into the back of our minds.

But Jesus told his followers to always be ready for his return. The same applies to death.

In the story of the 10 bridesmaids in Matthew 25, Jesus says five of the bridesmaids prepared their lamps with enough oil for the wedding feast and five did not. The bridegroom was delayed and the 10 bridesmaids fell asleep.

When he arrived, the five bridesmaids who did not have enough oil were told to hurry off to a shop and get some more. When they returned, the bridegroom had already gone into the house and they were locked out.

The moral of the story is to always be prepared to leave this world and be with Jesus.

As a follower of Christ, I know I will be with him. But am I so attached to what I have here – family and plans for the future – that I don’t want to even think of leaving?

The apostle Paul had the right attitude. In his letter to the Philippians, he said: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”

As he said, he had work to do for Christ here on earth. But he was longing to see Jesus.

May that be my attitude, too.

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Listening – and obeying

I have long struggled with obeying God unconditionally. I am afraid of what he might ask me to do – or to give up.

So, I compromise. I choose what to obey.

Yet I yearn to be involved in God’s great adventures. But I find that I must obey if I am to embark on these adventures.

I think of Moses’ talk with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3. God speaks from the bush, telling Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Moses replies exactly the way I would, protesting that he can’t stand up to Pharaoh and he can’t speak well. It could have ended there with God leaving Moses. But, instead, the Lord deals with Moses’ fears and promises help.

Even with that, I might have run away. But Moses made a crucial decision to obey. His obedience changed history.

I am not saying that every time we obey God, the result will be world-changing. But it will change us and, ultimately, affect others.

I am reading right now a fascinating book on evangelism – Beyond Awkward by Beau Crosetto. Crosetto is a California staff member of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, a campus Christian organization.

The title of his book speaks to the awkwardness Christians feel when talking about Jesus in our rational society which does not believe in the supernatural. He urges his readers to go beyond that awkward feeling and find the joy of being part of God’s work in the lives of others.

One of his key messages is listening to the Holy Spirit – and obeying. He is constantly asking God what he wants him to do – and to say. He has learned that when he obeys, good things happen.

Of course, Crosetto wisely cautions readers to soak themselves in the scriptures so that they can distinguish God’s voice from their own. He adds that, like anything else, we learn best by doing. As we gain experience, we come to know the Spirit’s voice better and better.

He acknowledges that he has made mistakes. But his book is sprinkled with stories of strange promptings from the Spirit which have led to wonderful conversations with unlikely people – many of them life-changing.

Can you imagine anything stranger than God tapping a shepherd in the wilderness to lead a million slaves out of Egypt? It certainly seemed strange to Moses. But he listened and obeyed.

The Bible is clear about obedience. The prophet Samuel told King Saul in 1 Samuel 15 that God sees obedience as far more important than the ritual sacrifices which were considered sacred by the Israelites.

Even as I wrestle with obedience, I’m excited as I think about what God can do with those who obey – including me.

Captive to my computer

I admit it – I’m a captive to my computer.

And it may be pulling me away from what God wants for me.

This thought stuck in my mind as I talked with some friends about the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. Our church’s men’s group is studying this book about the impact of our overly-busy modern lives on relationships with God and people. The author is a successful and frenetically busy pastor, writer and father.

Speaking of the tyranny of digital toys, DeYoung writes:

“We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thoughts. We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts.”

He says his wife rebuked him a while ago for texting at the dinner table.

In essence, DeYoung says, we have “a desire to never be alone”. Checking Facebook and our e-mail is one way of keeping ourselves occupied – particularly our minds.

DeYoung confesses he finds himself constantly wanting to check his e-mail every few minutes.

I have the same disease. The computer was a great help for me in the final years of my career. But, now that I am retired, I find that I waste a lot of time trying to get minute-by-minute updates on sports, politics, religion and my e-mail.

But is the problem the computer? Or, is it me?

The computer can be a great benefit. It gives me access to information I could not hope to collect on my own decades ago. It enables me to reach people I need to reach almost instantly.

But am I missing more important things by compulsively seeking to be up-to-date every minute on everything?

When I fill my days with the Internet, do I have time to hear what God is telling me? Am I aware of what is going on around in me in my own small world?

Most of all, who am I worshiping – God or my computer?

I am reminded of King David’s wonderful words in Psalm 27:4:

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

I can’t gaze upon God and seek him if I am dashing here and there on my computer.

What the future holds

A friend recently told me he is worried about what kind of a world his grandchildren will live in.

My friend is a thoughtful man. He looks at a world which is already plagued by wars and epidemics and wonders whether it will get worse.

I told him I was a pessimist about man but an optimist about God. I believe that we are born selfish and history shows that we fight among ourselves.

But God is working out his plan for good over the long term.

I was not totally honest. It is clear from scripture that we, as human beings, have a role to play in this good outcome to world history.

Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to give us a choice. We could either choose to believe that Jesus died for us so that we could become part of God’s family. Or we could reject him.

If we reject him, we wall ourselves off from God. And the end of history will be bitter for us.

I believe that the world will become worse before it gets better. Christians will die in wars just like everyone else.

Our hope is not in this world, but in the next. As Revelation makes clear, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. And we will be with God forever.

I feel for my friend and others like him who worry about the future.

When you’re young, you dream of a better world and your contribution to making it better.

But as you grow older, some of this optimism wears away. The world may improve here or there, but it is not long before more problems arise.

If your hope is in this world, you may wonder what is the purpose of living.

Something the apostle Paul said constantly springs to mind. In Philippians 1:21, he says:
“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

For Paul, the reason for living was to grow closer to Christ and to reach out to others so that they might know Christ, too.

And death was “gain” because he knew he would see Jesus face to face and be with him forever.