Eternal Wealth

I am not often up late enough to catch Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, but the other night I was. When he announced his guest would be “The Future of the Mind” author Michio Kaku, I was intrigued enough to keep watching. Though the whole interview was interesting, one comment stuck out to me. Kaku said that to build a computer that is capable of working as our brains do, it would have to be as big as a city block, need a river to cool it and a nuclear reactor to supply it with power. Our brains use about 20 watts of power (less than a light bulb!)

My first reaction was “and you think that just developed randomly by chance?” Then, I was reminded of the story in Matthew 19 of the wealthy young man; you can read the whole story in Matt 19:16-24, but to summarise – a young man asks Jesus what he must do to get eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commands. When the man says he does, Jesus tells him if he wants to be perfect, sell his possessions and follow Him. The young man walks away sadly, as he was very wealthy. Jesus tells His disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.

While the passage in scripture refers to monetary wealth, the same principle can be applied to richness in any form: knowledge, prestige or comfort. If we are “rich”, we tend not to seek out help, we think we are self-sufficient and the need for Christ can get buried in the comfort we are afforded. Of course, many people who are well off seek Jesus. In the end, it is all in our attitude.

None of us are perfect, and none of us can live a good enough life to enter the Kingdom of God. We can be self-sufficient, well-educated and held in high esteem, but we are all sinners and have fallen short of the Glory of God. We are all in desperate need of a saviour. All we need to do is to admit it. Sure, most of us can probably check off the commands and say we pretty much keep them; we are, more or less, a good person, but we need to get on our knees (sometimes literally) and just confess that we, with all our “wealth”, are completely dependent on the One who came to save us.

So, like the wealthy young man, we are faced with a choice: give it all up to God, or walk away. For most of us, walking away may seem like the more attractive option, at least in the short term. We have our earthly wealth and comfort, we even have our knowledge and understanding, but to be made perfect, we need to admit that we are not self-sufficient – we need to admit we need Jesus.

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World Class Consistency

Watching the women’s 3000-metre speed staking event at the Olympics, I realized why I would never be a world-class speed skater. Never mind my complete lack of skating skills, or the fact I was already past the prime age for high performance sports; I simply would not push myself as hard and as long as these women were. To see them bend over after the race, coasting on momentum off the oval, exhausted from leaving every ounce of energy on the ice, I knew I would have given up long before I reached the finish line.

What amazed me even more was the consistency of the lap times. Over 400M, they consistently put up times that were within a second of the lap before. They both paced and pushed themselves so that at the end of seven-and-a-half laps, they would have put up the best time possible. The dedication that I was seeing was awe-inspiring.

In 2 Timothy 4:7 , Paul writes that he “finished the race”, and the metaphor seems perfect. Walking with Christ is an endurance race and, at least at times, a struggle. It takes devotion and perseverance, commitment and resolution. There will be times when it will seem far easier to give in to temptation or neglect dedication.  Most times, it is easy to justify – we get busy with “stuff”: family “stuff”, work “stuff”, holiday “stuff”, even church “stuff” and before we even realize it, we have lost focus on the One whom our sight should be fixed on.

Our aim should be the same as the skaters – consistency. Life is full of ups and downs; consistency is more a goal than a reality for most of us. It seems that just about every time I settle into a routine, something comes and disrupts it. Though we can’t control a lot that is going on around us, we can control certain aspects. If our aim is to have a consistent walk with the Lord, then we should practice consistency in our spiritual lives. This isn’t easy, in fact, lately it has been very difficult for me, but it is what we should strive for. Daily time spent in God’s Word and in prayer are key to finding this consistency.

While I will never have the speed skating ability or total disregard for my body’s cries of pain to finish an Olympic endurance race, I need to continue to “fight the good fight” so that I, too, can finish the race that God has put before me. If I keep my eyes focused on the prize and daily seek His will, I can be assured that one day I will be able to claim my crown in Glory.

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Live to Tell

What if, by just looking at someone, you could see the soul of that person? If you could tell if they were a Christian, would that change the way you interacted with them? Would you tell them about Jesus if you could see they had never met Him?

I wondered this as I was l leaving the mall this past weekend.  I had needed some help in one of the stores and as I was walking out I waved to thank the women who had helped me. I wondered to myself if she knew Jesus. She had been helpful and friendly, much like you would expect from someone with a customer service job. The question just popped into my head: did she have Jesus’ love in her?

Christians are commanded to share the love of Jesus with the world.  My guess is that very few of us tell random strangers about Jesus with reckless abandon. I have rested on being open with my beliefs, living out my faith. I am careful not to use inappropriate language and having never had an alcoholic drink makes for a great starting point when business meetings spill over into the bar, but I fall way short when it comes to evangelizing everywhere I go. Would that change if I had a visual reminder of the danger they are in? Or would I simply pray that someone they know would tell them about the Good News?

When you stop and think about how much Jesus did for us, you would think that sharing it with others would be something we do with enthusiasm. When you stop to think what it means if you die without giving your life to Christ, you would think that we would do everything we could to share the Truth.

Most of us wouldn’t believe just anything some stranger came up and told us. What people do respond to is something they like or something they are intrigued by. So what if we treated every person we came across in a way that would cause them to ask what makes us so joyful, or positive, or loving? What if we approached every interaction with the goal of showing them Jesus? If we live and interact in a way that causes people to ask us, and we are ready with an answer, then we will be able to share Jesus with anyone, even if we can’t see their soul with our own eyes.

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Shifting Focus

20 years ago, FOX owned the rights to NHL games in the USA. In an attempt to win fans over, they invented the “glowing puck” officially known as FoxTrax. They implanted technology into the puck that allowed it to glow blue or (red if it was moving faster than 70 MPH) on TV. The idea was that viewers didn’t like hockey because it was hard to follow the small, fast moving puck around the ice. If they made it easier to follow the puck, viewers would find it easier to enjoy the game. As a lifetime hockey fan, the only time I thought the “glow” was useful was when the puck was up against the near boards and obstructed from the camera. The technology made the “glow” appear through the boards; you couldn’t see the puck, but you could see the glow.

I don’t miss the blue puck for two reasons. The first is that, if you understand hockey, you know where the puck is (most of the time) without needing a visual aid; in fact, you don’t even need to see the puck to know where it is. Watching the players on the ice will tell you where it is. The second reason is that focusing on the puck takes you away from watching the whole game; you miss the strategy and beauty of the game. By focusing on only the puck, you miss the players moving around, setting up and trying to score. That is why hockey broadcasters sit high up; they can see the whole game, and don’t focus on just the player with the puck.

We can get this tunnel vision in life as well. If we only focus on one thing, we can miss the big picture. One of the ways we do this is by focusing on “what’s in it for us” and not stepping back and seeing how God can use us for His purpose. We pass up an opportunity to be the difference in someone else’s life because we don’t see how it will benefit us. We use our gifts to improve our own life, but miss out on the joy of using it to help others.

So, how do you stop “watching the puck” and enjoy the beauty of life to the fullest? That is a question each of us has to answer individually. God has called us all to different ministries. He has gifted all of us differently so that we can fulfill His purpose for our lives. So, the answer lies within you. There are different ways to learn about your spiritual gifts, and you may want to look into something like a spiritual gift aptitude test. What I have found in my life is that I get a burning desire towards something. Through prayer and seeking God an internal passion develops. In doing this, I have found that God can use me in ways I didn’t know possible and ministries that I could only see if I focused my eyes on His big picture.

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My God Can Move Mattresses

It’s funny how the smallest child can so simply remind us of a great truth.

The other day, I was making our bed after my wife had done the laundry. As I know she appreciates when the sheets are well tucked at her feet, I wanted to make sure that the sheets were well anchored. I proceeded to lift up the bottom end of the mattress and tuck the sheets under, and then drop the mattress back into place. Upon seeing my, what must have seemed to her, great feat of strength, my 17 month old daughter wanted to test her strength and tried to lift the corner of the queen-sized cushion. Of course, the thing didn’t budge. She then looked up at me as if to say, well, I guess you got that going for ya.

At that moment, I could almost hear God say to me “you know there is a lesson right there”.

I could blame it on many things, but the fact is, I like to be in control and know how things are going to work out. I rely too much on my own intelligence and ability, even when they are severely unqualified for the task at hand. I try to “lift the mattress” on problems that are too big for me to handle on my own.

The problem I run into is that if I can’t figure out how do to it, I assume it can’t be done. If I can’t figure out how it works, or what the best answer is, I assume it doesn’t work, and there is not an answer. I all too quickly limit the world of possibilities to what I can accomplish and understand. As if like an infant trying to figure out how to make her parents’ bed.

I need to be reminded all the time that I serve a big God. I am not talking about a God who I can present a problem and He will help me figure it out. I am talking about a God who knew the problems I will face before I was even born and has been working in my interest all along. My God isn’t reacting to the universe, He created it, governs it and cares deeply about it. My God can look at the “mattress” I am struggling to move an inch and simply will it to move. My God doesn’t just understand things, He knows them intimately. His plans are bigger than mine, His imagination far more creative than mine – and that is saying something, because I can come up with some pretty crazy ideas!

It’s funny how God can use the look of a small child to remind a grown man of something he should not forget in the first place.

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Timeless Lessons

Last weekend, I had to get a new cable box for our television. For the most part, it was working. The on-demand feature wasn’t, and we do use that a lot. Not that I am a big techie, but it would seem that the technology of our old box was out of date. It’s common in our world that, with new advancements in technology, equipment can get old pretty quickly and phased out.

I got to thinking about how that can be true of our attitude towards the Old Testament. When God established His new covenant through Christ, the old was done away with, at least in terms of sacrifices and communication with God. Much like the advancements in telecommunications allow me to talk to pretty much anyone around the world who has a phone, Jesus gave everyone access to talk straight to God; no more need to go to the priest or the prophet.

The temptation is downgrade the Old Testament to something less important than the New Testament, and that would not be wise. Sure, we should and need to embrace the fact that we live under grace and not under law, but we also need to understand God throughout all of history and maybe more importantly, learn the lessons that He has preserved for us from thousands of years ago to help us as we navigate our lives. Often, as I am preparing a lesson or thinking of an example, I find myself in the pages of the Old Testament. It isn’t that Peter or Paul (or, you know, Jesus) haven’t given us many words of wisdom, it is that God has given us so much more to help us along the way.

Some of the passages of the Old Testament can be hard to read; not making a lot of sense in today’s world. It is tempting to skip them, or gloss over without concerning yourself with the message. I have been there many times, and only my stubborn commitment to read every word has made me take a deep breath and read with the intent of learning. Often times, however, I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to pause and pray for God’s wisdom as I read. I don’t always come away with a life lesson, but more often than not, I am struck by something that I can apply in my life. It isn’t usually profound; just a reminder of God’s love or His concern for His people.

I can’t say that I will always remember to seek out God’s message to me. I mean, I am the guy who will reset the cable box about a million times before I figure out that it just can’t keep up any more. My hope is that the next time I start to forget the importance of all of God’s Word that I catch myself quickly, open my heart to what He is trying to teach me, and learn His timeless lesson.

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New Beginnings

I love a fresh start, a clean slate and open world of possibilities. My favourite days of both spring and fall are “opening days”, when my favourite sports teams are undefeated, and the promise of a new season starts to unfold. If you know anything about my favourite teams, you know that it doesn’t take long for that promise to get mired in a losing streak, and the championship dreams to disappear.

Life isn’t divided into seasons quite as nicely as sports (at least after you finish school!), but there are still times when we are able to take pause, reorganize and get things back to where we want them. There are a few times during the year when it comes more naturally: in the spring, we clean out after a long winter; in the fall, we start anew with activities (even after your textbook carrying days are over) and of course, there is the New Year. We look back and reflect on the year that has been and at the same time look forward to a world of possibilities.

God has given us some new beginnings. He has done it on a world-wide scale a couple times over the course of history, and we are promised the final, and biggest one, is still to come. When God created the universe, it was perfect. God stepped in later and gave humanity a fresh start with the flood and then again later when He gave us His Son. Both times there were new covenants, new promises, a fresh start and new possibilities.

So, what about you? Do you need a new beginning? Do you need God to step in and give you the clean slate? Maybe it is the first time you have asked Him to do it, or maybe you have done it countless times; it doesn’t matter – he is always willing if you are truly repentant. You see, God can conquer anything. There is no sin too big, no confession too small, no end to His forgiveness and no limit on His love. God wants to give it to you; He is not only a God of the cosmic, He is also the God of the personal. He wants, longs, for you to feel the freedom of a new beginning.

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