Better Hurry Up…!

I love print cartoon images. I still look for them each weekend in our local paper. We have some of the greats like “Peanuts” by Schultz and Larson has done “The Far Side.” There are hundreds of classics that have survived the changes of life and impacted countless generations of readers – myself included.

Throughout their existence, print cartoons – even political humored one – always seem connect with a very real issue.

One of my favorites has always been, and will always be, “Calvin & Hobbes” by Will Watterson. His humor included politics, family life and satire in these two specific characters, following the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious, mischievous, and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his stuffed tiger. At one point, it is said, that this comic strip was in over 2,400 newspapers weekly. I am one of the millions of people who own some of the books that have collections of this comic in them. Calvin was said to be named after pastor John Calvin and Hobbes was named after the 17th century philosopher, Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes was just a stuffed animal. But to Calvin, he was very real. Perhaps that ‘little guy’ inside of me still resonates with that view on life and all of the issues that were examined through this lens.

Many of the issues that Calvin and Hobbes faced, are issues we have faced as well. Whether that be in our past, or even in our current reality.

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Within each of us is a competing nature: adventure and risk vs. logic and reality. Some of us go through life so unbalanced that we find ourselves up a ladder and even with a friend/spectator cheering us on – completely disconnected from the truth. We may even have someone in the distance speaking objective truth to us…but we are razor focused on what we think or perceive to be the best decision possible. And, we hurry up and jump!

Scripture, in Romans 8, it starts off with a powerful truth: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” And yet, far too many of us find ourselves up a ladder, ready to ignore all the realities around us, and and we go out and make choices that keep us from walking in the power of the life-giving Spirit of God.

Many seemed doomed to repeat past mistakes. Bad habits drive us and making a poor choice is often fueled by not only what is easiest in the moment, but also fear. Fear of failure. Fear of pleasing others. Fear of being found out. Verse 15 of Romans 8 says: “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.” The battle that can rage within us to climb the ladder and jump into danger before we actually stop and listen to what God the Father is saying for us to do, is very real.

So what can you do? Romans 7:21 and following says: I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

First, we must stop and listen. And in doing this, we need to know who we are listening to. At some point, Calvin is only tuned into Hobbes. And well Hobbes, his only wise statement is ‘hurry’ because the true voice of authority in life (a six year old boys parent) is saying ‘something’ and we can probably all guess what it was. STOP.

We have to stop listening to the wrong influences in our lives. All the self-help gurus in the world cannot compare to the answer we should all first seek: Jesus Christ our Lord. The heart of God has been perfectly revealed in His Holy Word. If the ladder we are climbing is leading us to something that contracts Jesus as the answer and away from His revealed promises within Scripture, then you must STOP. Ephesians 4:22-24 says: “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

In a message called “Put on the New Person” by Pastor John Piper, he teaches that “that THE KEY QUESTION for how to live the Christian life [is]: How do you think in such a way that God will be the creator of your thoughts? How do you feel in such a way that God will be the creator of your feelings? How do you act in such a way that God will be the creator of your actions? How do you put on a new person created by God?”

We can’t be a ‘hurry up’ people any longer. Rather, we need to be a people, so consumed with the goodness of God the Father, and so devoted to His Lordship in our lives, that we don’t move ahead of His sovereign working in us, and around us, and that we passionately wait on Him to reveal His ways by stoping, and asking the Holy Spirit of God what is truly controlling our motives in that moment.

You were made for this. To live this way. God’s way. Not in a ‘hurry up’ and do it myself kind of living. That is not walking in the power of life-giving Spirit of God. It might be in rhythm with man’s best. Or the world standards of success. But it is actually out of step with God. Ephesians 4, verse 10, says that “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us…”

I’d rather know God, know His voice and climb the ladder with God – the ladder He purposed for me to climb – any day – then to keep climbing up my own-made ladders and doing life my own way. My best is often less fulfilling. Less joy-filled. It lacks. God’s best for me has always been more than I could ever imagine and provides for me in ways I didn’t even know I needed, until I exactly needed it.

So stop climbing those ladders you’ve placed in your life. Stop listening to things that oppose God’s Holy standards for Christlike living and start passionately waiting on His voice and resting in His promises for your life. As you wait, God is developing your character and you are able to grow spiritually in ways that meet current needs but also prepare you for future realities.

Another tool you will need: others – but, the right others. Ecclesiastes 4, verses 9 through 12 say: Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. You need to have the right people around you, and perhaps, below you on the ladder, that will counsel you correctly. Not someone who is just as blind to the truth, to the issues, as you are sometimes. Not those who only take from you – emotionally and such – but rather, those who are invested in a real relationship with you and who you know are personally connected to and walking in faithful obedience to God the Father. People you see alive in Christ and not just those who will tell you what you want to hear.

Everyone of us, as Disciples of Christ, should seek to live a life that glorifies God, and to live a life worth following – as we follow Christ. And, each of us should have true friendships with others who have purposed to live in the same way.

Stop listening to the wrong noises in this life. Be connected personally to God and His Word. Let God, be God, in your life. Let the Holy Word of God define truth and goodness. And, be connected with others in a healthy way that fulfills your pursuit of loving God, glorifying Him and making much of Him in your life each day.

Living the Kingdom Experience

As we begin a new year, my heart is drawn to 1 Corinthians 4:20 which says: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” Warren Wiersbe writes that “the church has known for 2,000 years that Jesus is coming again, and yet many believers have become lethargic and drowsy. They are no longer excited about the soon-coming of the Lord. As a result, there is little effective witness given that the Lord is returning.”

Is this you? Be honest here – are you an effective witness for the Kingdom of God or are you just a lot of dull talk? Do you have an excitement for sharing about the Good News of God’s love with others? And, have you ever truly responded to the Good News of God’s love for you?

The final part of the Matthew 25 addresses the final judgment of the entire world. Leading up to this, there are four parables that (Matthew 24:43–25:30) have all alluded to judgment, and have concentrated on right living in this life. So although this last part is told using illustrative language, like a parable, with the final judgment being compared to a shepherd separating sheep from goats, it is not a parable. Jesus ends his teaching here in Matthew 24 & 25 with an emphasis on the eternal judgment of the entire world.

It reads almost like an exact description of what will happen when Jesus comes again, as if Jesus wants to make explicit what was implicit in the parables. This is a very moving and very solemn passage. It reminds us of certain things that will be true about the return of the Lord. From this passage there are four things we learn about the return of the Lord. First, He returns in glory (v. 31). Second, He returns as the Judge & for final judgment (vv. 32–33). Third, He returns to bring us into His Presence for Eternity (vv. 34–40). And fourth, He returns to confront wickedness (vv. 41–46), a truth that should compels us to not delay in seeing others come to know Jesus Christ personally – to be fully committed to daily living the Kingdom experience this next year.

So how do we do this?

We have to actually apply these truths from Matthew 25 to our lives. Start by pointing others to His glory by living a vibrant, Holy life. Secondly, let God, be God – let Him be the Judge others. And lastly, we must not forget that others need to know the truth about Eternity in His Presence. Much like the first truth we learned from Matthew 25, we must also recognize that with all of our holy living that the conversation about eternity must still happen. Being “Christian” is just the start to this – sharing Christ consistently with others is what makes the good news of Jesus Christ powerful, real and authentic – so share your story!

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We must not forget what 1 Corinthians 4:20 said: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” When you and I are living by God’s power, there should be an infusion of the Holy Spirit within us that makes us and our way of living refreshing & exciting to those around us. Are you an effective witness for the Kingdom of God or are you just a lot of dull talk? Are you living the Kingdom experience daily?

What Jesus shares in Matthew 25 was meant to clearly communicate what it means to be ready for His return & how to live until He comes. We must be an effective witness for the Kingdom of God and we must not waste our opportunities. You may feel as if you may not have a great deal of ability to reach others, to impact them, but you can choose to be faithful with what you do have – for all of us must be faithful, as we daily seek to live out the Kingdom experience by pointing other to His Glory by living a vibrant, Holy Life; to let God, be God – to let Him be the Judge of others; and to be faithful to share with others their need to know the truth about Eternity in His Presence forever.

May you live the Kingdom experience throughout this year and may those apart from God, see your action, your desire to live by God’s power each day, and praise Him for it – drawing closer to the Lord as their Savior, their Creator, their Healer and Redeemer!

(Originally written for: Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – December 2015)