Jesus loves you! This is a true, simple and potentially life-changing statement. Once we accept what that three-word sentence actually means, it can become a steering mechanism for everyday of our lives, pointing us to righteousness, godliness and self-sacrifice. Jesus loves you. Pointed and refreshing, but what does it really mean? Does Jesus’ love for us guide us in our everyday experiences? Yes! Does his love for us mean that he wants the best for us? Of course! Okay, so if he wants the best for us does that refer to comfort and abundance in our lives? Does Jesus’ love for us bring us to better living conditions, more financial stability, a much better present and a brighter future? The answers to these questions will vary wildly depending on whose brand of Christianity you look at and this just confuses the matter. Instead of asking different Christians about the role of comfort and abundance in a Christian’s life, let’s find the answer from Jesus’ own teachings and the Apostle’s own words.
Fear is a life dominator. When fear wells up within us we are often physically paralyzed, speechless or at a loss for cogent thought. When fear strikes we run, we hide or we cower before it as our new and merciless master. When we see fear in others we can easily be drawn into its overwhelming grip and become hapless and helpless in our ability to see clearly and find our way. Because fear is such a powerful dominating emotion, it has always been a preferred tool of Satan. What better way to gain control of the masses of humanity than to instill fear? While fear can occasionally save us, fear is most often a pathway to dysfunction, a weapon of despair and a tool of defeat. So, what do we do to conquer fear? How can we learn to feel fear but not be afraid?
We are so shortsighted. Most of us can only see as far as the next phone, tablet or computer screen and we really don’t think much about we are seeing – we just want to see it, to have our minds toyed with and occupied, never giving thought to what is beyond and what is lasting. In our obsession with the occupation of our moments, we have completely lost one of the greatest things that we could ever personally bring to our world. We have lost the value of LEGACY. Legacy by one definition is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” You see, we have the ability to leave a lasting and positive impression on our world, if we would only realize that potential and act on it. Elijah is a great example of legacy. In fact, Elijah left one of the most unique and powerful legacies of any Bible hero. What legacy did he leave? How did he do it?
“The best things in life are free.” That certainly can be true, but as always there is more to the story. Take love - the love that is between a husband and a wife as a for instance. While this love certainly should be free – freely given and freely received, it does have a maintenance schedule attached to it. Funny thing is, we never hear much about love’s maintenance schedule as it can be difficult, demanding and even daunting. The good news is that if we stick with the schedule, the results will literally last a lifetime and the love that we were freely given will have become a most valuable admired and cherished part of our lives! So, how do we get there? How do we learn what to do and how to do it so our love will last a lifetime?
Two weeks ago we talked about Elijah and the incredible courage he had toward accomplishing God’s will. We saw him prophesy, take responsibility, wait, perform miracles, wait some more, appear before his greatest enemy and overwhelmingly conquer in a challenge to prove that God is in fact God over all. The next thing we knew, Elijah was running for his life – afraid and feeling alone. Turns out that all his heroics got him was more threats on his life. So, what happens to that courageous prophet of God now? He still must fight but in a different way for in this next stage of his life God is going to teach him submission. Submission – it does not sound like a characteristic that belongs with courage, but as we will see courage will burn you without submission and submission will burden you without courage.
As Christians, we pin all of our hopes on the belief that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins. This is the bottom line core reason for our coming to Christ for it speaks of him doing something for us out of pure love that we in no way could do for ourselves. To us the sacrifice of Jesus represents the ultimate gift. Those outside of Christianity often look at this belief with disdain and even sarcasm for to them it is foolishness and evidence of a blood thirsty god. One question that is probably not talked about much is about the breadth of Jesus’ sacrifice – who did it cover and how do we know? In the present conditions of our world, the Muslim faith is often thought about and referenced. What do Muslims think of Jesus? While they do believe in him, they don’t see him as a redeemer. Does this mean that they are not covered by his sacrifice?
Courage is perhaps the most underrated, under-appreciated and invisible virtue of our time. We are so busy complying with the status quo, with watching our words and with following what others say and do on social media that we seem to have forgotten the simple yet powerful virtue of courage. Courage is stepping up, stepping out and standing against the tide of darkness. Courage is being what you know you should be when it is unpopular with others. Courage is having the guts to listen when others only want to argue; it is reaching out to give when others are focused on taking and courage is leading by example when following in anonymity would be so much easier. Courage, when observed, incites others to stand, it provokes others to act and it plants hope where there is none. Yes, we need courage, but how do we find it and how do we learn to truly be courageous?
George Orwell’s 1949 book “1984” was about the future. It was a scary and suggestive look at what could happen to society if we didn’t protect our freedoms from totalitarianism. The idea that “Big Brother is watching” was a fearful one, as this fictional story gave the feeling that what we say and think are monitored and forcefully used to keep us in line. So, here it is, 2017, and the year 1984 passed 33 years ago without Big Brother watching. But wait a minute – the sexist and alarming thought of Big Brother watching would invade safe spaces and be recognized as a potential trigger for some. We need to be gender and social status-free in our policing of the masses. Instead of Big Brother watching, we should say, “Thought interpreting humans are guiding the collective.” The point is, we have entered a time in history where the policing of thoughts and words has overtaken us in a unique and disturbing way. What would Jesus do in this environment? Would he stand in support of it or against it? Would Jesus be politically correct?
The ability to compromise is a lost art. We have become so diverse in our thinking, so polarized in our viewpoints and so set in our conclusions as unequivocally right, that the mere idea of compromise is in some cases viewed as a repulsive evil. Now look – there are times when compromise should be off the table. There are times when that which is right and sound should not be approached with the idea of watering it down for the sake of making someone or some group or some sect happy. But when? When do we stand as an immovable force and when do we bend and acquiesce to include the preferences of others? Fortunately for us, these very issues existed in biblical times so we actually do have a pretty clear set of guidelines to follow. Is compromise good? Yes! Is compromise bad? Yes! Let’s figure this out!
How is it that life seems to go by so fast? How is it that we more often than not look back on our life - the things we did and what we became - with a measure of regret, knowing that we could have been more or contributed more? Have you ever stopped to think of what makes life happen? It is actually a pretty simple equation: TIME + EXPERIENCES = LIFE. Now I know that is an oversimplification, but stay with me. If we can accept that life is the combination of time and experiences, then wouldn’t solving the issue of making one’s life fuller and more meaningful be easier to understand? Time is measurable and predictable and we all have the same amount each and every day. Experiences, be they physical, observational or thoughts, are essentially the sum total of what we do with the time given to us each day. So, what can we do to make our time and experiences produce a rich, fruitful and contented life?