It’s All About Him


It’s easy to forget that life isn’t all about me. I would like it if it were. Everyone would cater to my every desire, worry about keeping me happy. They’d make sure they didn’t offend me, be quick to encourage me, tell me how kind or smart or talented or helpful I was.

OK, OK, you all can get up off the floor now and stop laughing.

The old saying is that babies are born into the world thinking they are the center of the universe and spend the next eighty years learning they aren’t.

Pretty true. Kids tend to think every toy they want should belong to them. When they’re hungry, it’s time to eat. When they wake up, it’s time to get up.

When we become adults, of course, we realize we need to take into consideration the “others” in our lives.

But if we stop with that realization, we are still woefully wide of the mark. Life isn’t all about me, and it isn’t even all about other people.

Why I am here–why we all are here–isn’t about us. No matter how great an impact a person has on society, how many people he helps, he will soon be gone, and another generation may not even remember his name.

I suspect when President McKinley, the twenty-fifth President of the US, was assassinated, people throughout the country thought he would never be forgotten, that his death was one of the most tragic events in the history of the US. Of course, that was before two world wars, the rise and fall of Communism, the Great Depression, Vietnam, or 9/11. Today he is little more than a footnote in history books. And he was the leader of the nation!

Men of wealth don’t fare much better. Once the names of Rockefeller and Carnage demanded the kind of respect we give Bill Gates and Steve Jobs today. Or what we once gave Steve Jobs.

The Apostle James is right about Mankind. We are just a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

How silly, then, for us to believe life is all about us?

It ought to be abundantly clear that our comfort, ease, security, happiness is transitory and cannot be the ultimate purpose of our existence since we ourselves are temporal.

Who wants to draw bucket after bucket of water to pour into the gutter? Why would we spend our time in such a futile effort?

Yet that’s what we so often do when we make life all about us. We spend our precious hours trying to shore up a sandcastle. We might even landscape and furnish it with elaborate, expensive pieces, but in the end, it all washes back out to sea.

How much better if we spend our time on what lasts!

Life, after all, is all about God, not about us. He is the Creator, and we, the creatures made in His image. We exist for His pleasure, not the other way around. We glorify Him, exalt Him, worship Him. He’s the One who is high and lifted up, whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours, whose name is above every name.

How far we have fallen, to think that we should only read the Bible or pray if we feel like it, or that we have a right to complain if in church we sing too many hymns or not enough or if we stand too long or the lighting is too low or too bright.

If life is not about us, worship is certainly not about us either. How different our days would be if we remembered that we exist for God; in fact, life, creation, all He made, exists for Him.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in June 2012.

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Published in: on June 23, 2017 at 5:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Quiet Conversation About Purpose, Meaning, And Destiny


115898_twins_1One day twin brothers were having a quiet conversation, and the meaning of life came up.

What do you suppose it’s all about? the first brother asked.

It’s about getting what you can in the here and now, brother number two answered. There’s nothing else after this.

Seriously? His brother wrinkled his brow. You mean, when we leave, we …

Go into oblivion. What else could it be? I mean, when you’re gone, you’re gone. If you go first, I won’t see you again and vice versa.

It all seems so pointless.

That’s why you have to make every minute count while you’re here. Grab what you can. Live for the moment. Eat and sleep like there’s no tomorrow, because there really might not be one.

I don’t know. I have this feeling that there’s more.

Crazy talk.

No. It’s talk that makes me think there’s more. I’ve heard things.

What kind of things?

You know, voices. One especially. Over and over I hear, ‘I love you boys.’

Your imagination.

I don’t think so.

Look around. You see any mysterious person who might be talking to us?

Well, no.

All right then.

But why couldn’t this person, you know, be somewhere else and when we leave here we join them there?

Because there is no other place.

How can you be sure?

Do you SEE another place?

Well, no.

Case closed. If you can’t see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, or taste it, then it doesn’t exist.

You said ‘taste’ twice and you left out hearing.

Do you hear anything now?

No.

All right then.

But I’ve told you, I hear this voice almost every day. Sometimes it even sings.

You’re losing it. And I’m stuck with a crazy for a brother.

Why is it so crazy to think there’s a world beyond the one we know?

Because you have no evidence, no proof.

I’m telling you, I do have proof. I’ve heard the voice of one telling me how much we’re loved.

That’s nothing but your wishful thinking tricking your mind into believing something that has no basis in fact.

How do YOU know there’s no basis in fact?

Show me this mysterious, invisible person. Where are they, huh?

Next time I hear their voice, I’ll wake you up.

Don’t bother. If I have a sour stomach, I can imagine things too. Hearing voices of invisible people is not proof.

Then what is?

How about an actual person, right in front of my face?

I don’t think it works that way. Somehow, I think we need to go to the I-love-you person, not the other way around.

You’re making this up.

No, actually I’m not. I’m on my way now.

And with that the first of the twin boys was pushed through the birth canal and born.

– – – – –

This post first appeared here in May 2013 as a rebuttal to the atheist notion that there are no “invisible beings with superior powers,” by which they mean God or any other spiritual beings. Of course what they miss is the limitations we humans have: how can we know of things beyond the scope of our ability to investigate? And they discount revelation simply because it contradicts their presupposition.

Purpose


Adam_and_Eve019What is the purpose of life? Not just any life, but the life of a human being. Christians schooled in the Westminster Shorter Catechism will immediately answer that “the chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

It’s hard to refute that statement, for surely all of creation is to glorify God and at some point in the future “every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-10).

The problem I’m having with this concept is this: why didn’t God tell Adam and Eve their purpose was to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever? And when Jesus came, why didn’t He correct any wrong thinking and state what His followers’ purpose should be? Then when Jesus left earth, why didn’t the Holy Spirit set them on the right path and give them their ultimate purpose?

In other words, this idea that Humankind has been given the central purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever seems to me to be something humans have cobbled together from various scriptures. By the way, the purpose the Westminster Catechism gives humans seems to me to be fulfilled by the angelic host. Are we to duplicate what they have been given to do?

According to Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve a completely different directive:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28)

First, God made humans His image bearers. Second, He told them to multiply. And third, He gave them dominion over the earth and the rest of life on the earth. God never rescinded his commands to Adam. Therefore, I submit, these are the purposes of Humankind.

Because Humankind introduced sin into the world, Adam’s original purpose was subverted, but not eliminated. Humans are still to multiply. I don’t think that command was ever about filling the world with more bodies, however. Without a sin nature, a child born before sin would have had the same relationship with God that Adam and Eve had. They could have communed with Him in transparent intimacy. They could have represented God to the rest of creation by administering just and merciful dominion over all of life. In other words, God wanted more people carrying out His work in the world, and it was up to Adam and Eve to multiply.

In many respects, the Church, God’s redeemed and reconciled people, have been recommissioned to accomplish what Adam and Eve failed to do.

We are to represent Christ to the world. Paul terms this as being ambassadors:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us (2 Cor. 5:20a)

We are also to multiply.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you (Matt. 28:18-20a).

I recently read that Christians are not primarily to engage in a “pyramid scheme” of evangelism. That term, of course, has negative connotations because those participating had to put in money with the hope of getting a greater return in the end. This goal can only be accomplished by bringing as many other members into the scheme as possible.

Of course Christians aren’t to be engaged in disciple-making with some ulterior goal or with some sort of works-based reward system in mind. We shouldn’t be trying to notch our belt to signify another redeemed scalp.

But trumpeting the good news, playing the part of ambassadors, teaching others who can then turn around a teach others, is precisely what Christians are called to do.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2)

As I see it, because of sin, we are now on a rescue mission. Our chief end, just as it was Adam’s chief end, is to obey God–which Jesus says we’ll do if we love Him–and His primary commands haven’t change, though the scope of them has. Now we are to be image bearers to the rest of creation, including people who do not know the Son. In the process, we are participating in the multiplication of His people:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29 – emphasis mine).

Throughout the New Testament there’s a discussion of “bearing fruit.” Primarily those references deal with one of two things–good works or people. In one parable, for example, Jesus admonishes His disciples to go out into the harvest because the fields are ripe. Then in the epistles, Paul talks about obtaining fruit among the Gentiles. Elsewhere he talks about some Christians planting, others watering, but God giving the increase–or bringing to fruition their work.

I suggest God receives glory when what He made works the way He intended it to work. The heavens, for example, declare His glory. How so? By the fact of their existence because what He made originally was good.

Because of the sin nature in Humankind, however, we do not glorify Him merely by our existence. We are not the perfect image bearers He originally made. We are flawed, which is the very thing Christ came to take care of. His work allows us to return to our work.

Yes, I happen to believe God will receive glory because of our doing what He made us to do. In other words, I believe that when we fulfill our chief end we will glorify Him. I also believe that when we fulfill our chief end, we will enjoy Him and that enjoyment will be without end.

Consequently, when we fulfill our purpose, we will bring about the things the Westminster Catechism declares to be the chief end of man. I just happen to think the men who put that doctrinal statement together put the wrong question to the answer. They should have asked, “What will result when Man fulfills his chief end?” Then the answer, “They will glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” works very well.

A Quiet Conversation About Purpose, Meaning, And Destiny


“Why do deities need supernatural tricks: A Rebuttal

115898_twins_1One day twin brothers were having a quiet conversation, and the meaning of life came up.

What do you suppose it’s all about? the first brother asked.

It’s about getting what you can in the here and now, brother two answered. There’s nothing else after this.

Seriously? His brother wrinkled his brow. You mean, when we leave, we …

Go into oblivion. What else could it be? I mean, when you’re gone, you’re gone. If you go first, I won’t see you again and vice versa.

It all seems so pointless.

That’s why you have to make every minute count while you’re here. Grab what you can. Live for the moment. Eat and sleep like there’s no tomorrow, because there really might not be one.

I don’t know. I have this feeling that there’s more.

Crazy talk.

No. It’s talk that makes me think there’s more. I’ve heard things.

What kind of things?

You know, voices. One especially. Over and over I hear, ‘I love you boys.’

Your imagination.

I don’t think so.

Look around. You see any mysterious person who might be talking to us?

Well, no.

All right then.

But why couldn’t this person, you know, be somewhere else and when we leave here we join them there?

Because there is no other place.

How can you be sure?

Do you SEE another place?

Well, no.

Case closed. If you can’t see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, or taste it, then it doesn’t exist.

You said ‘taste’ twice and you left out hearing.

Do you hear anything now?

No.

All right then.

But I’ve told you, I hear this voice almost every day. Sometimes it even sings.

You’re losing it. And I’m stuck with a crazy for a brother.

Why is it so crazy to think there’s a world beyond the one we know?

Because you have no evidence, no proof.

I’m telling you, I do have proof. I’ve heard the voice of one telling me how much we’re loved.

That’s nothing but your wishful thinking tricking your mind into believing something that has no basis in fact.

How do YOU know there’s no basis in fact?

Show me this mysterious, invisible person. Where are they, huh?

Next time I hear their voice, I’ll wake you up.

Don’t bother. If I have a sour stomach, I can imagine things too. Hearing voices of invisible people is not proof.

Then what is?

How about an actual person, right in front of my face?

I don’t think it works that way. Somehow, I think we need to go to the I-love-you person, not the other way around.

You’re making this up.

No, actually I’m not. I’m on my way now.

And with that the first of the twin boys was pushed through the birth canal and born.

Published in: on May 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm  Comments (8)  
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Broken Cisterns


Cistern_getting_waterAccording to Wikimedia “a cistern is a tank for storing water, usually covered. It may be as small as a toilet cistern or large enough to be essentially a covered reservoir.”

God, through the prophet Jeremiah used cisterns as a metaphor to show His people’s relationship with Him.

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

696415_mountain_waterfallI don’t know about you, but if I were in need of water and had to choose between “living water”–the kind that flows freely, abundantly, cleanly–and water stored in a cistern, I’d take the former every time.

But God didn’t just accuse His people of choosing cistern water over living water. They were making for themselves broken cisterns–ones that couldn’t hold water at all. In other words, since we need water to live, they were abandoning the source of life in favor of their own empty effort.

What a great picture of Humankind’s attempts to make it without God. We dig and work and build and produce and save, but in the end we go out like we came in–alone.

Our own efforts to provide the love, security, purpose, sense of belonging that we all need, net us dry ground. Furthermore, one person’s attempt to do religion is no better than another person’s rejection of religion.

Water isn’t found in man-made activities. We can’t give up enough for Lent or fast often enough or even serve in homeless shelters often enough to get the water we need.

The Jews Jeremiah was talking to had left worship of the LORD their God and were serving false gods, made with their own hands. They couldn’t see how silly it was for them to pray to a statue that they had carved from a block of wood, one that could not walk or talk, and certainly could not give them Living Water.

But people in contemporary Western society aren’t any smarter. We think happiness will come if we just have enough money, just get the right job, just marry the right person, just have freedom or protection or safety or health. We go all in on things that are temporary, ephemeral, over which we have little control.

God tells us we can’t do it, that He’ll provide. But like little children we say, No, no, let me, I want to do it. So we’re hacking away to dig out these systems we think will make life make sense or fill up our loneliness or at least get us through to the weekend. It’s a sad way to live, trying to squeeze water out of the muddy mess we make.

Especially when we can turn and enjoy Living Water in abundance.

Published in: on April 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm  Comments Off on Broken Cisterns  
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It’s All About Him


It’s easy to forget that life isn’t all about me. I would like it if it were. Everyone would cater to my every desire, worry about keeping me happy. They’d make sure they didn’t offend me, be quick to encourage me, tell me how kind or smart or talented or helpful I was.

OK, OK, you all can get up off the floor now and stop laughing.

The old saying is that babies are born into the world thinking they are the center of the universe and spend the next eighty years learning they aren’t.

Pretty true. Kids tend to think every toy they want should belong to them. When they’re hungry, it’s time to eat. When they wake up, it’s time to get up.

When we become adults, of course, we realize we need to take into consideration the “others” in our lives.

But if we stop with that realization, we are still woefully wide of the mark. Life isn’t all about me, and it isn’t even all about other people.

Why I am here–why we all are here–isn’t about us. No matter how great an impact a person has on society, how many people he helps, he will soon be gone, and another generation may not even remember his name.

I suspect when President McKinley, the twenty-fifth President of the US, was assassinated, people throughout the country thought he would never be forgotten, that his death was one of the most tragic events in the history of the US. Of course, that was before two world wars, the rise and fall of Communism, the Great Depression, Vietnam, or 9/11. Today he is little more than a footnote in history books. And he was the leader of the nation!

Men of wealth don’t fare much better. Once the names of Rockefeller and Carnage demanded the kind of respect we give Bill Gates and Steve Jobs today. Or what we once gave Steve Jobs.

James is right about Mankind. We are just a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

How silly, then, for us to believe life is all about us?

It ought to be abundantly clear that our comfort, ease, security, happiness is transitory and cannot be the ultimate purpose of our existence since we ourselves are temporal.

Who wants to draw bucket after bucket of water to pour into the gutter? Why would we spend our time in such a futile effort?

Yet that’s what we so often do when we make life all about us. We spend our precious hours trying to shore up a sandcastle. We might even landscape and furnish it with elaborate, expensive pieces, but in the end, it all washes back out to sea.

How much better if we spend our time on what lasts!

Life, after all, is all about God, not about us. He is the Creator, and we, the creatures made in His image. We exist for His pleasure, not the other way around. We glorify Him, exalt Him, worship Him. He’s the One who is high and lifted up, whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours, whose name is above every name.

How far we have fallen, to think that we should only read the Bible or pray if we feel like it or that we have a right to complain if in church we sing too many hymns or not enough or if we stand too long or the lighting is too low or too bright.

If life is not about us, worship is certainly not about us either. How different our days would be if we remembered that we exist for God, and life, creation, all He made exists for Him.

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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Platforms And Purpose


I’ve been thinking a bit about God’s work in and through His people. Of course I apply this to writing, but the illustrations I’m going to share demonstrate my conclusions are not limited to that profession at all. I explain this because “platform” seems like a writing-specific term. No teacher is asked what her platform is. I doubt if plumbers face that question either. Would-be politicians might.

A platform refers to the number of people whose attention an individual commands. The American Idol contestants, for instance, have a small platform until they reach the finals of the contest. Suddenly they have millions of people watching them perform (and remembering their name and voting to keep them around). That’s why the judges so often console someone who is leaving the show — they know the platform that contestant gained, the attention and following, will reap benefits even for the “losers.”

So I’m thinking of two twenty-somethings who each have a book about their life. Who in the world would think someone so young would have a big enough platform to sell books, let alone have something worthwhile to say when they have lived life as an adult for such a short time? And there are two of them?

One of these individuals is Tim Tebow and the other is Katie Davis. Oh, you might think, of course, Tim Tebow (Through My Eyes, Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker, Harper). He’s a big-name athlete. Make that BIG Name Athlete. I saw it again on the news last night after the Denver Broncos scintillating victory in overtime — a news anchor saying that Tim Tebow was The Most Talked About Athlete of the year (the implication was, last year). Not the Cy Young Award winners, not the Heisman Trophy winner, not the NBA MVP. Tim Tebow.

But what about Katie Davis (Kisses From Katie, Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark, Howard Books)? In fact who is Katie Davis? I’ve mentioned her here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction before. She is the young single girl who went to Uganda for a short term mission. She returned to the US and attended college for a semester because she’d promised her parents that’s what she’d do, but then, not yet twenty, she left for Africa again to work with children — the most vulnerable and needy. After starting out teaching, she focused her work on orphans. In fact she has become the foster/adoptive Mom of thirteen girls. She’s also started a ministry (Amazima Ministries) that provides support for poor children so they can attend school and can receive nourishing meals. In addition there’s a program for moms who struggle alone to care for their children.

Katie does not have hundreds of thousands of people watching the way she changes diapers or nurses the latest scrapes or tucks her daughters into bed. Her platform isn’t Tebow-sized. But one look at the pictures of her children, and there’s no doubt that she’s serving a purpose that is eternal.

Tim’s platform, interestingly, allows him to participate in eternal purposes, too. This missionary kid has a heart for missions still and has also started his own ministry — The Tim Tebow Foundation “to bring physical and spiritual healing to the world’s poorest children.”

What do I learn from these two young committed Christians? So much. They are both inspiring in their own ways. But beyond that, I see God doing marvelous things, with Katie’s thousands and Tim’s ten thousands. The size of the platform does not dictate the value of the ministry or reduce the importance of the purpose God has given to each of them.

I feel as if Tim is oblivious to the numbers of people following him, talking about him, and Katie, when she mentions the growth of the attention she’s receiving, it’s with fear and trepidation. Instead of focusing on the size of their platform, it seems both of them are riveted on their purpose — to please Jesus — and they then let Him decide just how big their platform should be.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Comments (8)  
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