Posted in Comfort, Eternity, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

Best Before

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I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation of typewriters, handwritten notes and telephone calls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was new, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Have I become out of style myself? Am I past my “best before” date?

In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, my best before date falling many years into the future.

The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report on a store in Europe that uses these items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families. The savings passed on to those in society who are more vulnerable has been remarkable.

While groceries can go out of date, truth doesn’t expire. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required.

What appears to be forgotten in the static that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth can be as damaging as rejecting it for without exposure, truth won’t be understood by the hearers and when it is spoken, it sounds foreign.

1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”

The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods that are fallible, it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down:

Proverbs 27:6 NKJ“Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.

2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?…” 

People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding; they won’t like the way its packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right, in the face of truth (whose message seems to be irrelevant to the current crowd). The problem with questioning the truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with the changes making truth relative instead of absolute.

Truth is what gives us security and safety. My children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.

Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided end up themselves rejecting God’s truth for they have not experienced the unconditional truth of God’s love.

Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church – and the church has, by and large, succumbed to the whims of what is relevant, popular, and will “draw the crowds.”

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It may be that the frustration we feel, however, is after winning the crowds we fail to keep them or, if we do keep them, see them become active participants in what we know has given us purpose. While appealing to the culture of our surroundings is necessary to speak communicate the message of God’s love to those around us, appealing to culture will not keep a hungry soul.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Hidden in the heart of everyone, God has placed a sensitivity for things eternal. If what we offer to those we are called to appeals only to the surface, the longing of eternity will drive those people to find what their hearts long for: a connection with the Maker Himself. For the sake of keeping the harvest of souls God gives us, we have a responsibility to bring them beyond appealing to the culture but to address the longing for eternity.

Posted in Choices, Cross, Distractions, Kingdom

Cling Wrap, Sore Knuckles, and The Kingdom

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Cling wrap.

Try as I might I cannot get a grip on how to properly use the stuff. It comes in a nice long rectangular box with an oh-so-fine serrated edge that, in theory, is supposed to help tear the cling wrap in nice, even pieces that I can use to cover food containers in the refrigerator. Try as I might, in all my years and work in the kitchen, rarely have I ever been able to tear off a perfect piece of cling wrap to cover a dish.

Following directions, this scenario repeats itself nearly every time I dare to brave to enter the world of cling wrap:

  • Set dish that needs to be covered on the counter.
  • Open box of cling wrap.
  • Find edge of cling wrap. This is a feat of major proportions as the edge of the plastic is nearly invisible; usually resulting in unevenly tearing of the cling wrap.
  • Frustration begins to bubble beneath the surface.
  • Pull desired amount of cling wrap, with bunched edges, over the dish.
  • As instructed on the box, gently pull on one side of the cling wrap to tear the end of the wrap off.
  • Wrap does not tear, apply more pressure.
  • Cling wrap begins to bunch up, stretch, and will not tear evenly. My knuckles are torn against the fine serrated edge – the serrated edge seems to tear my skin better than it does the plastic wrap.
  • Rinse and repeat until successful or knuckles are too sore to try again.
  • Get another dish with its own cover and give up.

Who ever invented this stuff? I’ve even tried the perforated cling wrap with nearly the same results – except my knuckles don’t bleed which is a big plus.

I keep telling myself I need to purchase more storage containers with lids. The problem with buying more storage containers with lids is that nearly every time I have purchased containers here (Malawi), the lids don’t stay on and I find myself returning to the violent world of cling wrap.

Like cling wrap that seems to cling to everything besides that it is intended for, I find in myself times that I cling to things other than what I’m created for.

In Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus had a conversation with His disciples. He asked them who people thought He was; after hearing their replies, He asked, “Who do you say I am?” Famously, Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. In verse 17 Jesus calls Peter, “Blessed” for his revelation of Who He was.

Peter had an idea of who he thought Jesus was and what that looked like; he was correct in saying that Jesus was the Christ – but he had no idea of what that meant. Immediately after Peter’s statement, Jesus began telling His disciples (Matthew 16:21-28) that He was going to suffer and die and then rise from the dead. That same Peter who was called blessed just a few verses earlier, was told in verse 23, “Get behind me Satan!” Peter was clinging to his own ideas of how things were meant to be.

Jesus was passionate, He clung to His assignment. At the same time, He told His disciples (and we who follow Him today) that the assignment we are to cling to is to be likened to a cross.

Matthew 16:24 NLT“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Our own ideas of what our faith is supposed to look like, much like Peter’s, won’t mirror what taking up our crosses is meant to be.

This morning I was reading in Luke 17 where Jesus describes the work of a servant:

Luke 17:10 ESV“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Often we make the mistake of living our lives from day-to-day, giving a nod to God when we read our Bible and pray, giving Him another nod when we make it to church, and believe that we are living lives of profitable servants. If we only live to fulfill duty, we’ve not yet entered into the realm of being profitable for the Kingdom. Being profitable means going above and beyond the call of duty and entering a place of actually adding value (touching souls) to the Kingdom.

In Matthew 25:14-30 the parable of the three servants gives the account of what it means to be profitable. Each of the three was given a different amount of money (talents) to care for while the master was away. The first two earned interest on the money they were left and they were declared to be profitable. The third simply hid the money he was given and returned to the master exactly what had been given to him. Businesspeople understand this principle: if an employee is not profitable, he is fired. That’s what happened to this third servant.

If we only do what is right as a believer (read our Bibles, pray, attend church, love others, give, show mercy, etc.) that’s simply doing our duty. As servants of the Kingdom, we have a much greater destiny that just clinging to doing the bare minimum to get a pass into Heaven. Like Jesus, who came as One Man to this earth and now has innumerable followers, we are to sow ourselves as He did into the lives of others and watch God give us a great harvest.

Not only are we to sow ourselves into the Kingdom as Jesus did, but we are to do so willingly – to cling to that purpose understanding that there’s far more at stake than our own comfort or convenience.

This world with all its trappings seeks to engage us to the point of eliminating our profitability for the Kingdom. God’s Kingdom, unlike the world we live in today, is eternal and immovable. This world is, as we all know too well, temporary, corruptible, and unable to satisfy the deep craving all of us have in our souls for something better, something more.

I’ve decided to cling to the cross.

heaven is our home