Life and Death

Often when discussing life and death with people you hear the comment that the thing that really matters is not the date you were born or the date that you die but the dash in-between. In other words, what you did between your birth and your death. What did you accomplish in life – not in the sense of what you did but looking at your legacy… what you are leaving behind. Did you just consume and take from the world or did you contribute to life and thus the planet and the human race is better off because of your life.

I am not thinking of dying soon but recently I had the opportunity to walk through three different graveyards … two Muslim and one Christian. It was a semi-day off in Kazakhstan and I walked down a dirt road that I am familiar with just to get some exercise and get away from the demands of a ministry trip. I had visited two of these graveyards before on past walks. This time I was struck by the shortness of life and the length of “forever.” The ‘dash’ or the life lived between the two dates is really not all that significant. There were some gravestones that showed the person had lived a lengthly life; some lived just a few years and died relatively young. Of course, there is no indication on a gravestone as to the quality of a life or what they contributed. There is no explanation of what occurred during the ‘dash’ whether long or short.

As I looked at and read many of the grave markers I thought about my own gravestone which one day may mark where my physical body is disposed of. I was thinking not about the ‘dash.’ I was thinking that it should read “Ralph Howe 1947 – Eternity” because although my body may have died on a certain date in a particular year – I didn’t die. I will be alive forever and forever and forever. And, the most important thing will not be what I accomplished while here on Earth for a short time (the ‘dash’) but who I have become while living temporarily here on planet Earth. Character and maturity is what God is looking for – and most of what happens to us and in us is about developing a Christ-like character and maturing into the likeness of Christ whom we follow. It is that character that goes with me into the longest part of my forever life – Heaven.

Now, just need to think about the slogan I want engraved on the stone below where my date is listed…

Immanence and Transcendence

Big words that have tremendous meaning. Referring to our God it is saying that He is God most high but He is also God most nigh.

It is interesting that when God chose to reveal Himself to Moses He did so in the middle of nowhere – a burning bush on the back side of the desert. Why not a highly populated or religiously significant place? Jewish scholars use to debate this and they came to a consensus. The reason God appeared there was that God wanted to show that “no place on earth, not even a thorn bush, is devoid of the Presence. In other words, God is everywhere to be found. God is where you want to be. God is where you are right now. God is where it’s at.

He is God Most High.
He is God Most Nigh.

A.W. Tozer wrote: “God is above., but He’s not pushed up. He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down. He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. He’s inside, but He’s not confined. God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside of all things filling.”

This has some simple applications:
Where you are – God is!
When you leave where you are, you don’t leave God’s presence. You take His presence with you wherever you go.
You are always standing on holy ground.
The holy ground is not the Promised Land. It’s right here, right now. It is wherever God is, and God is everywhere!
Every moment in life is a holy moment because God is there.
Every place you go today is Promised Land.
God can show up and manifest Himself any time and any where during your day.
You can live in holy anticipation, knowing that God can and will invade the reality of your life at any given moment and change everything for all eternity.
And, when He does, you need to mark the moment and not the spot …

I, for one, am thankful that God our Heavenly Father is both Immanent and Transcendent.

Roots and Foundations

Failure is a part of success. Before you will succeed in whatever you are working towards in your life you have to go through the door of failure. Failure is the fertilizer that grows character. And character sustains success so it doesn’t backfire. Success without failure is like a plant without any roots or a building without any foundation. Failure is the substructure that supports the superstructure of success.

Too often the potential of failure keeps believers from trying amazing things for God. God gives them a dream of what can be done in His Name and they simply don’t start down that road because of the potential for failure. They want to do what God is asking them to do but it is beyond their ability. Their skills set is not adequate. It looks impossible to go there. It is outside their comfort zone. They feel challenged and stretched and thus uncomfortable and on edge. So, because of the possibility of failure they do nothing.

Instead, we need to realize that our God is the God of the impossible. And, that He gives us assignments that our beyond us so that we will rely on Him and trust Him; lean on Him and not on our own skills and understanding. He challenges us because He wants to teach us in present-day reality that “with God nothing is impossible.” He is wanting us to simply trust and obey and, like Mary, say, “Let it happened as You have spoken.” Remember, He is asking us to live by faith and walk in the Spirit and both these require that we risk and move out from what is comfortable and try big things for God because He is a big God.

Will we fail? Yes, of course! We will end up relying on the flesh and fail to walk with the Holy Spirit. We will hear His voice and fail to obey – or try to accomplish what we heard Him say in a way that He never intended. But, as we fail we grow. We grow in our knowledge and understanding – we now know something that does not work. We grow in our obedience and this is good because Jesus said that obedience is a sign of our love for Him. Our trust in God and our ability to hear His voice grows and this is good – in fact, very good. And, we are humbled by the failures and thus receive grace to get up, dust ourselves off, and move forward once again into the inevitable success. Inevitable because God is with us and never leaves us or forsakes us. Inevitable because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So, today, listen for His voice. And step out and do what you know He is asking and, in fact, calling you to do. It will be bigger than you and somewhat scary at times but this is how it always is with God because He is calling us to trust Him and walk by faith. And, watch carefully what The Lord is doing in you as you go towards your God-given dream … you are under construction. And, He is more interested in your development than the dream’s realization.

Time and Eternity

We all want to spend eternity with God. We just don’t want to spend time with Him. We stand and state from a distance, satisfied with superficiality. But disciples are people who follow Jesus the Master. And, to be a true disciple you simply cannot follow Him from a distance. If you do, you can’t hear what He is saying or see what He is doing. By the time you arrive to where He stopped the event will have ended.

As disciples we have to make some changes. We Facebook more than we seek His face. We text more than we study. And our eyes are not fixed on Jesus. They’re fixed on our iPhones and iPads – emphasis on “i.” Then we wonder why God feels so distant. It’s because we are following at a distance. We wonder why we are bored with our faith. It’s because we are not walking with Jesus. There are a number of reasons for this but when push comes the shove it is because we have not made Him Lord. Saviour, yes! Lord, no! And so we run our lives the way we want to and not the way He planned it.

We are taught to get saved and avoid Hell. But, we are not told to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” We want the benefits without obligations. We want blessings without responsibilities. We want joy without sacrifice. We want character without suffering. We want success without failure. We want gain with pain. We want a testimony without the test. We want Jesus the Saviour without embracing Him as Lord.

A.W. Tozer said, “Eternity will not be long enough to learn all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done.” But you don’t get to know Jesus by looking at Him from a distance. You have to hike into the depths of His power and the heights of His holiness. You have to find pleasure in His presence and peace in His purpose for your life. And this will take time and effort and begins with taking a single Spirit-led step of faith in God’s direction.

It is time to snuggle up to God and watch Him snuggle up to you. Staring from a distance will no longer suffice.

Saved By Grace But…

Every true disciple of The Lord has made or declared a statement of faith. They have publicly acknowledged that Jesus is Lord and Saviour – not just Saviour but Lord and Master as well. Many people in the Bible followed their public declaration with some fairly powerful actions. Now, the actions did not make them more saved then others because everyone comes to salvation the same way – by grace through faith and not of works. However, following salvation there should be a marked difference in the person’s behaviour – your behaviour.

Remember the tax collector who put his faith in Jesus Christ? He gave half of his possessions to the poor. That isn’t what saved him. But that dramatic action was evidence of a defining decision! He also offered the pay back four times as much to anyone he had cheated. Before he met Jesus, money was his go. So it made sense that his statement of faith would involve finances.

Remember the prostitute who anointed Jesus? She broke open her alabaster jar. That isn’t what saved her. But that dramatic action was evidence of a defining decision! She gave her most precious possession to Jesus. Not only was it extremely valuable. It was also part of her sex appeal. Breaking it open was her way of stating she was giving up her former life by giving that jar to Jesus.

Remember the revival that broke out in Ephesus? Those who practiced sorcery burned their scrolls publicly. The cumulative value of those scrolls was estimated at fifty thousand drachmas. A drachma was a silver coin worth a day’s wages. That’s 138 years of wages! They could have sold those scrolls and pocketed the money, but the would have been selling their souls. Instead they made a $3,739,972.50 statement of faith.

The other day I wrote about Elisha who when he was about to follow Elijah burnt his plough and killed the team of oxen – his statement of faith. His public declaration that something had changed and he was moving forward into the future – not looking back to the past or staying stuck in the present now.

If someone were to examine your life what might they see as your “statement of faith” that you believe in Jesus and are following Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength? What would your public see and hear in your life to indicate that you have had a life-changing encounter with the living God?

Sorry if this is meddling a bit…..