Well Done.

It is hard to express in words alone the torrent of emotions that accompany laying a loved one to rest.

Even for those who were not particularly close to the person being grieved for, the whole experience can still be incredibly emotional.

Thankfully, joy can be found in the midst of the mourning if the loved one knew Jesus as savior.

As Billy Graham said when speaking of his own passing, “I will be more alive on that day than ever before.” And he was right. For believers, when we pass from this temporary life into the eternal we will, in fact, be more alive than ever before because we will be with our Lord, the giver of life itself.

But the process is still, understandably, painful. I think that one of many reasons why funerals are so difficult for us humans is because death causes us to reflect. Death causes us to think about life. How did they live their life? How has my own life been lived thus far? How will I now choose to live?

Recently, I attended a funeral service of a faithful and incredible man of God. And it may sound weird to say, but I was truly and deeply blessed. (You know that someone lived their life well when their funeral service is a blessing to people, and a true celebration of life.) I was encouraged to hear about his love and devotion to his God and to his family. I was awed by his steadfast and upstanding character. And I was grateful for the legacy that he left behind.

There is no doubt in my mind that the moment when this man stepped into eternity he heard the words “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Those words actually come from a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25. You should read the passage for yourself, I promise it will be worth it. But one of the main takeaways is that what you do today matters for tomorrow.

Jesus tells of a master who entrusts a few of his servants with various amounts of money and then he leaves to go on a journey. He returns and discovers what each of his servants has done with the money. The master is very pleased with the servants who have done something with what was entrusted to them and have doubled it.

He tells them “well done.”

But one of the servants was lazy and did nothing with what was entrusted to him, and the master was very displeased with him.

I want to live my life in such a way that at the end of the road I will hear “well done.”

But “well done” starts today. The choices that we make today are literally forming our character. Each and every day needs to be a “well done” kind of day.

There are no shortcuts in a life well done. We cannot just simply hide what has been entrusted to us away and wait till the end and expect a pat on the back.

The only way to hear “well done, good and faithful one” at the end of your life is to do well during your life.

I am thankful for godly men and women who set examples for us to follow and be encouraged by. I am thankful for a God who doesn’t just leave us in the dark, but actually gives us answers to our problems and frustrations in the Bible. I am thankful for Jesus and the promise of eternal life.

And I am motivated to live my life in a way that will please my Lord

My Lighthouse

The ocean is incredible.

Out of all of God’s amazing creation (human beings aside), I would argue that the ocean is my favorite. Mountains are spectacular, forests are beautiful, prairies are elegant, deserts and canyons are really neat, but none of those environments fill me a sense of overwhelmed joy that the ocean does. I am captivated by the sound and spray of waves, and I could contently sit and stare for hours.

I am a Midwesterner born and bred. So, admittedly, my experience with the ocean is far less than my experience with flat land, corn fields, and rivers. Nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that I have fallen in love with the sea.

But as beautiful as the ocean is, it is just as dangerous. In fact, its beauty oftentimes hides its true peril.

For centuries sailors have fearlessly sailed the oceans, navigated through storms, and charted coastlines. Through it all their greatest ally was always the lighthouse.

Shining in the dark, a lighthouse was a fierce and yet, welcomed reminder of the imminent danger that the sailors knew was there, but could not see for themselves.

Lighthouses keep people alive.

I have a lighthouse, so to speak. My lighthouse actually calls Himself the light of the world and promises that whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness, but instead, will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

Jesus shines brightly in the darkness that surrounds me. He keeps me away from the danger that I can see, as well as the danger that I cannot see. And He guides me safely so that I can have rest.

Lighthouses keep people alive. Jesus makes people alive.

Friends, I don’t mean to sound preachy here by any means. But life, just like the ocean can be incredibly and wonderfully beautiful. But it is also just as dangerous. In fact, life is more dangerous than we may even comprehend, and I am not just talking about physical danger. There are emotional and spiritual dangers that are always lurking before us and we will crash into them if we do not look to the lighthouse to guide our way.

We need Jesus to guard and guide our hearts, minds, words, and steps if we are ever going to thrive in this life.

We need to look to Jesus because He will not and cannot lead us astray. And His light cannot be dimmed.

After all, as one of my favorite verses tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Jesus is trustworthy and true. He is the light.

What or who are you looking to?

Believing The Bible

The Bible is full of incredible events, people, and transcendent truths. It tells of God’s unfailing and unchanging love for people, and of His incredible freely-given grace.

The Bible, as God’s own Word, is inerrant (contains no errors) and infallible (incapable of containing errors of being wrong) in its original manuscripts, and it is authoritative in our lives.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” One of the keywords in that verse is the word “all.” There have been some who have come to think that the Bible is a mere collection of helpful stories or ideas some of which may be true, others, however, not so much.

The idea is that there are some stories which are just too hard to believe because they are too fantastical or too imaginative. “Surely a sea could not be split in two. Surely a donkey is incapable of speaking. Surely a man cannot rise from the dead…wait, no we like that last one.”

Nope. It’s all of it or none of it.

You see, we cannot just pick and choose parts of the Bible that are easy to digest and only believe them. We must be consistent. If we believe part of it, we must believe the whole.

For example, some have begun to believe that Adam was not a true historical figure, instead, the thought is that he was some sort of allegory. The idea behind this thinking is that it is easier to believe that the human race came from a group of people rather than from just one man. Now, it is not my intention here to fully debunk the allegory theory, but rather to remind us of the interconnectedness of the Bible.

With that said, one problem with thinking that Adam was not a real historical person is that in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 we find these words, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

It becomes quite clear that the first man talked about in verse 21 is Adam. His real-life choice to sin against God brought about sin, death, and destruction for all of mankind. And that rebellious choice thrust us all into sinful separation from God.

But then, the second man, Jesus Christ, came and His life, death, and resurrection undid all the harm that was done by Adam. (*Insert Amen-Halleluja here*) Because of Christ, there can now be life and eternal relationship with God. If Adam did not exist as a real historical person then it becomes unnecessary for Christ to come in order to undo what was done, since Adam would not have sinned if he was simply an allegory.

Scripture is interconnected.

The parts that we may think are not as easily verified need to be trusted and paid attention to just as much as the parts that are “easily” historically verified. All Scripture is equal in its authenticity and authority.

If we want to believe the words, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only son,” then we also must believe the words, “then the Lord God formed the man from the dust.”

Tim Keller has a wonderful quote about the believability of the incredible miracles that we read about in the Bible. He says, “We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it… Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.”

What an amazing thought. I pray that God would reorient our hearts and mind to see things the way He intends us to see them. And that He would give us greater faith to take Him at His word.

“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matthew 19:26

Escaping Escapism

I need to be the first to admit that I absolutely love getting lost in a good book. I thoroughly enjoy following the complexities of a well-written plot. I relish at the chance to make predictions during a movie and proudly proclaim, “called it” to my wife’s astonishment.

I like to enjoy creativity, and I love a good story.

But I cringe at escapism.

Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

Escapism is dangerous. Escapism unchecked is disastrous.

I certainly understand the appeal of it though. When we go through stressful, unpleasant, even terrible times, our default, as humans, would be to simply shut out the real world and jump into our fantasy world. It’s a coping mechanism. It is understandable. But it still is trouble, and we still need to run from it.

While jumping head first into fantasy may be appealing, we need to understand that God has placed us firmly in reality. We worship a real God who created an incredible world for us to live in and proclaim the reality of His love for people. We believe in a real Jesus who actually died and truly rose again.

One biblical concept that shows itself time and time again is the reality of God and the reality of His creation. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 tell all about how God created the heavens, and earth, and everything contained in them. John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” There is a reality to God’s creation.

God does not just simply conceptualize things, He actually chooses to create birds that have physical feathers, water that is truly wet, and men and women who have actual physical flesh and blood.

That same chapter in John tells us that Jesus Himself chose to “become flesh and dwell among” mankind. Actual physical components of God’s creation seem to be very important throughout the Bible. Moses did not pretend to talk to Pharaoh, Daniel did not spend time with imaginary lions, and Jesus did not just simply conceptualize dying on the cross. All of those things happened physically and are grounded in reality.

With all of that being said, I do think that it is important that believers in Christ use their imagination in order to produce creative works of art that appear of the page, the screen, the canvas, and so on. The truth of the matter is, we serve and follow the ultimate creator who is unequal in His creativity. It would seem that His followers should be using their minds and talents to also be creative.

However, all of our creativity should be expressed with the intention of reflecting the true message of the reality of the Gospel.

As believers in Jesus Christ, our chief goal should be to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in everything that we say and do. We can only share this real message if we ourselves are firmly grounded in reality.

Escapism moves against reality. This does not mean that we need to give up all forms of entertainment, by no means. Books, film, music, art, all of these things can actually be invaluable aids to us as believers. The best stories are ones that creatively remind the audience of the present reality and have a realistic call-to-action.

Our stories should teach us something, not just waste our time.

Some might respond by saying something along the lines of, “but life gets hard, like really really hard…escapism helps me to cope with all my stresses and then I can forget about my problems.”

That certainly seems understandable, however, when life gets hard and complicated God actually desires that we turn to Him. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we need to be “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Instead of turning to fantasy in order to help us through, we should be turning to the God of the Universe.  God cares for us more than we can imagine. We, not only can but should talk with Him anytime and anywhere. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Let’s stop escaping and, instead, run into the real God who truly loves us.