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?

Warning. Warning. Warning.

Thankfully, tornados don’t touch down on Tuesdays. That’s what I grew up thinking at least.

Let me explain. For as long as I can remember the first Tuesday of every month was the day that our local tornado sirens were tested. Like clockwork, the sirens went off in the morning of each month’s first Tuesday. If you are from the Midwest, chances are that you too have a tornado siren testing day.

The practice makes perfect sense. We need to be warned if there ever is an approaching tornado, and a siren is no good if it doesn’t function. Therefore, regular testing to ensure the functionality of the siren is a wise and appropriate practice.

As a kid, I remember asking my dad, “what if a tornado comes on the first Tuesday of the month?”

My dad replied without missing a beat, “that’s easy. We just don’t schedule tornados on Tuesdays.”

Regrettably, I admit that I was satisfied with his answer for way too many years. Come to find out, tornados aren’t something that you can schedule at all!

Fast forward a bunch of years to today. It’s the first Tuesday of the month, as you well know. And I was walking outside when I received a phone call. I answered and was in the midst of a good conversation when the person on the other end of the line interrupted me.

“What is that noise?” They asked.

“Umm…what noise.” Was my response.

It took me a full 10 seconds to realize they were asking about the blaring tornado siren.

I had gone deaf to the warning I had heard all my life.

It’s actually a fairly terrifying thought if I’m honest. Warnings are there for us to keep us from harm and if we go deaf or blind to them what is to keep us from the coming danger? Now, I would like to give myself a bit more credit and assume that if there really was a tornado threat coming my way I wouldn’t need a siren to tell me to get to shelter. But the point is still valid.

We need to pay attention to the warning sirens in our life so that we don’t ignore them when we need them most.

The Bible gives us plenty of warnings.

Warnings…

  • about being careful how we talk. (James 1:19)
  • about not worrying or being anxious. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • about avoiding unhealthy sexual temptations (Proverbs 5)
  • about the need to repent i.e. turn away from our sins. (Acts 3:19)
  • about not getting distracted by present suffering. (Romans 8:18)
  • about the need for humility. (Philippians 2:3)
  • about false “gospels” that creep into our thinking. (Galatians 1:6-10)

And many, many more.

The only problem? Many of us have heard these warnings before. We probably have heard the blaring sirens of these warning from our parents, Sunday School teachers, Pastors, friends, awesome online blogs, etc. But maybe we have heard them so often that we have, eventually, become deaf to them. I hope not. I pray not. But it is possible.

So, what do we do? We become even more familiar with the warning. Or better yet, we become even more familiar with the source of the warnings.

Read your Bible.

We need to be careful not to treat the Bible, or the awesome instruction and warnings in it, as background noise. God’s Word is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12) and its message needs to be loud, clear, and primary in our lives.

God’s warnings are there for our well-being, let’s pay attention.

And Then There Were Monkeys

There we were, roasting in the Caribbean sun, covered in sunscreen and looking for adventure.

A few years ago, my wife and I went on a family cruise. It was an extremely fun time. We ate food, walked on beaches, ate food, went to shows, ate food, visited a volcano, ate food, went parasailing, ate food, snorkeled, and oh…ate food.

As we were making our way into one of the island’s ports I remember we were immediately hit with a barrage of people looking to sell us something…anything really. There was no point in trying to hide the fact that we were tourists, so we decided to just smile, nod, and try to make our way through the crowd.

Now, I honestly can say that I have no clue how it actually happened, but before I knew what was going on there was a monkey on my back….literally.

My wife was laughing as a monkey suddenly appeared on her as well. Our smiles grew as the monkeys increased. There was a local man smiling and laughing with us as he egged our furry little friends on. Then he asked me if I wanted him to take our picture.

I should have known better.

After he snapped a couple of photos of us his smiled faded, the primates jumped from our shoulders to his, and he held his hand out.

He got me.

Now, I want to be clear, I don’t begrudge this man for trying to make a living. My wife and I certainly aren’t missing the few “American dollars” our monkey pictures cost us. But I think what irritates me (only a little bit honestly) these years later is that fact that I had been “gotten.”

I should have seen it coming. I should have been ready. I should have just kept walking.

It could have been the scorching sun, the fresh air, my wits dimmed from the all-you-can-eat buffet, or just simply the excitement of the day. Whatever the reason, the reality was that I had been suckered into paying for something I didn’t need.

My defenses were down and it happened so fast.

We need to be careful how we live our lives, because the monkeys on our back can be crazy dangerous.

It’s frustrating, but this is usually how sin works in our lives. It jumps on to us (or we willingly put it on) and before we realize what is going on, payment is due. There is a quote from Ravi Zaccharias (although it has been attributed to several people) that goes like this,

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

That quote is, unfortunately, so terrifyingly true. We can get caught up in something, and before we even realize it, we are neck deep in the consequences of our actions.

James 1:14 reminds us that, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Those words “lured” and “enticed” could even be translated as “dragged away by.” That’s an unpleasant thought.

So what do we do when we are faced with temptation?

We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We remember the truth of who we are in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We put on the protective armor that He has supplied us. (Ephesians 6:13)

Run away from those monkeys. They may be fun, cute, and cuddly at first…but they will always end up costing you.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9