Let’s say your dad is Chairman of the board of directors of a hospital group covering Boston, New York, Atlanta, and L.A. Let’s assume you and your Dad love each other and really have a ton in common: a love for medicine & healing arts. Filling out your college applications, he sits you down for a “career conversation”:
“I’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into this career to ensure you kids have a bright future. Lots of sacrifice. This contract guarantees you a job at any one of my facilities, provided you complete med school. But, the harder you study and the better you do on your internship, the better a position you’ll have. The better position you get, the more time we’ll get to see each other, go fishing in off time, etc. Just sign here and get to work on your education.”
He slides a bona fide contract across the desk to you stating exactly that, already signed by the remainder of the board and the CEOs of all 4 hospitals. Once you’re done with 14 years of training, the next 30-40 years are locked in.This is really happening.You in?
“There are only two certainties in this life – death and taxes.” Today, we get to talk about both.
Day 1 – Taxes… If you’re planning to support Seasons of Life Ministries this year, you’ve got until Monday, December 31st to either get it post marked or give online. Anything after that and the IRS requires us to count it for 2013. The rest is in your hands. As of today, we’re only about $4,000 away from a “clean ending” for 2012. We have about $1,500 in matching funds still available to help meet that goal. So, if you’re planning to give, now’s a time when anything you give will make twice the impact.
Helping us meet our support needs will ensure we continue supporting about a dozen families in the “working poor” and poor class that receive food delivery either weekly or monthly. You’ll also help support the many men I have the honor of walking with as a spiritual director. This year, our focus begins to shift from building up many of these men to guiding them as they begin discipling other men.
What to Do About This Day: Partner with us now. We’re praying for new quarterly partners at $125, $250, and $500 per quarter. If we reach our need of 16 of these, “Support” updates will likely become a thing of the past on our blog, giving me back a lot of time that can be more deeply invested in the men in my pastoral/discipleship care. Whatever you do, whether $20 a month or $2,000 this week, get it in the mail by Monday afternoon or online by that night. To send it to us, use our secure address at 2659 Freedom Parkway, Suite 285, Cumming, GA 30041.
2 Cor. 5:10 “That Day” Dan Matthewson is a high powered software sales guy. Top in his class, top in the firm, being groomed for partner. Gorgeous wife, model children. Placed his faith in Christ as a young teenager. He’s got it going on.
But, he’s dying inside.
This year, you may have a chance to hear Dan’s story. He, like you and I, doesn’t get out of here alive. Like you and I, he will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be rewarded for the things he did for God’s kingdom and in God’s power and timing. He doesn’t realize he’s headed for a fiscal cliff that will last much longer than the US economy.
That Day is an interactive, two-act, one man show that uses about a dozen characters to tell the story of what it will look like when Dan, and by extension you and I, may witness the day Christ calls us to account for all we’ve done here on earth. It’s funny, unnerving, engaging, and loaded as Bill Ibsen says “with more truth than a sermon and it all flies under the radar until after you’ve seen it.” This production has already impacted over 500 people in the metro Atlanta area and this year, we’re already being sought out for new performances that will more than double that.
Participants at a “That Day” event react to what they’ve just seen and discuss “table questions” and scripture related to the topic.
What to Do About “That Day”: Keep your eyes on our Facebook page, the blog, or www.thatday.info. As soon as new dates are announced, you’ll hear about them first. But, read and pray about the judgment seat and consider the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 & 3. Start and continue conversations in your church, organization, or small group about “eternal rewards” and the role grace has in our salvation but works has in our rewards. Pray for wisdom and revelation about how eternity impacts today and vice versa. And, when new dates are announced, get your tickets right away. Who wants to be one of those people who couldn’t get tickets last minute like the last time?
You and I and everyone else who ever was or ever will be will eventually become the same thing: a memory. The longevity of our memory is something that most of us thinks about at least once or twice a day – “Will I be remembered as a ‘good person’? Will what I’m doing right now matter in 100 years?” Who wants to be forgotten?
Slaying the Fame Monster
Killing the obsession with earthly fame comes for some through stoking the fires of personal gain rather than achievement – they’re not concerned with who remembers them as long as they got what they wanted while they were here. Others don’t have to kill the beast, because their desire is like John the Baptists’, to minimize their own name while maximizing the name of Christ.
What’s the Problem?
Whether you desire to kill the fame monster or you’re hopelessly beholden to it, there’s a tension that showed up in your gut when you read “Will what I’m doing right now matter in 100 years?” If you felt that, you get it. You get that we all have a desire for significance. There’s a universal tension between who we are and who we will become that grows more vivid the closer we get to death. Just ask anyone that’s been in a car wreck or overdosed or had some other near death experience. The thought of losing control over how we’re perceived by others is a cliff far more terrifying than the fiscal cliff in the news these days. We don’t just long to be remembered, we long to be remembered on our terms.
True Fame in Your Future
In the book of Revelation (not Revelations, please), Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia they’re on track to earn a crown – a highly coveted chunk of eternal reward – but, if they don’t persevere in doing what is right, they’ll forfeit it. He also tells them of an even more coveted reward – “I will make [him who overcomes] a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Rev. 3.12)” A pillar is strong, a support that holds up something (in this case, the Heavenly temple of God), and important pillars often have plaques with inscriptions on them. Jesus tells them God will autograph the person, put the name of the new Jerusalem on them, and write a new, personal nickname on him or her. Biggest fame, ever… and on God’s terms! Trust me, way better than anything you or I could come up with.
Surrender is about trusting that God’s way is infinitely more valuable than our ways. To walk in freedom is to relinquish control over how we will be remembered. I’ve often said the Bible is a collection of 66 books by over 40 authors that ultimately ask the same question from God to us: “Will… you… trust… Me.”
Ever Feel Threatened? There’s a guy in my life who’s avoiding a conversation with me right now because he thinks I’m expecting something for nothing. Actually, I owe him something, but it’s something I can’t give him until it first comes back to me. Long story short, he’s already written me off as lawless and fears I only want to talk my way out of it. Big communication shutdown. I’m in the wrong and need to make amends. But, when I’ve asked for mercy (“…press your plea with your neighbor… (Prov. 6:3b)), only suspicion has been returned.
What he doesn’t know is that as a believer in Christ, I’m not only subject to the law (Romans 13:1), but I’m also subject to the law giver. Anyone who’s ever paid a speeding ticket knows that it’s no fun to be on the wrong side of the law. But, imagine coming face to face with the God who created the universe and hearing Him request an accounting of everything you did while on His planet in the time He gave you… Does that sound a bit more intimidating than traffic court?
For me, it does.
Renewed by the Word Yet, the great news that God popped off the page is this – while there are men and women out there who would love to entice us into argument, character assassination, word wars, and even litigation, God is sovereign even over them. As I’m reading Proverbs, Chapter 1, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Prov. 1:10)”
Am I calling this guy a sinner? No, categorically, not. I don’t have access to God’s Facebook friends list and I won’t be so arrogant as to sit in judgment over the guy from my mere human vantage point. Furthermore, I’m the guy in the wrong on this one, right? So, let’s focus on the point here and experience the freedom we have in God, shall we?
Our freedom in Christ seems oxymoronic. To be free to say “no” seems a bit of a dichotomy. Yet, you and I, as Christ followers are compelled by Christ (see 2 Cor 5:14) to only one option – “do not be enticed into doing wrong”. Yes, the example given in this proverb is about being invited to join people who want to go inflict evil upon others, but it also extends to the broader category of “wrongdoing”.
Be Encouraged Sometimes, freedom is saying “no” when you have all the room in the world to say “yes”. Could I engage this guy in a verbal war? Could I bite back with character assassination of my own? Sure could. I might even be right at the end of the argument. But, I’d be wrong in Christ and would be abusing my freedom and would miss out on one of the greatest fruits of the Spirit: self control. My freedom actually constrains [Greek: ‘sunexei‘ to control or hold together with constraint] me to one option: love someone who is acting as if I’m any enemy and pray for him while he’s persecuting me. While it sounds painful now, I’d rather do that than lose both the fruit of the Spirit and eternal reward. How about you?
Until Christ returns, there will always be those who want to wrangle with words and accusations, stir up dissension, even cause us physical or legal harm – they may also try to entice us into sinning against God with them. But, we serve the God who will, in the end, see their knee bowed to Him just as our knee will bend; they, too will be called to account for their actions. May our hope not be in our words or our temporal vindication, rather in the God who searches hearts and minds and will repay us all according to our deeds. (Rev 2:23)
Mark 3:2 reads: “Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.”
Some people are just never satisfied.
But, should we be surprised by the actions of the Pharisees? Their eyes, being so trained on the law that they gave up worshipping the law-Giver to worship the law, how could we expect them to recognize the God of grace standing before them performing deeds of true righteousness? He didn’t match the headline they expected in the Jerusalem Times:
“Warrior King Liberates Israel from Roman Oppression”
How often do we get into that match with God – the Comparison Game? Have you been disappointed by how things have turned out? Have you ever found yourself, like me, wrapped around the axel of “God owes me” when He never promised you what you were expecting in the first place?
The two most powerful words in the entire bible are not “Jesus wept.” In my opinion, (as was mentioned last week) they “but ” and “God”, as used in “but… God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. (Eph 2:4-5)” When we look at what we have in light of what we deserve [judgment], it is all blessing. The danger for us is taking the gospel for granted and falling back into “but, God didn’t”___. Fill in the blank – “save my grandmother from cancer”, “deliver my dad from addiction”, “give me the job I wanted and was qualified for…”
When did God promise you those things? What does He really owe you?
Be Encouraged Every one of us has something coming our way in the form of blessing. For all of us in Christ, it is transformation. For all of us in Christ, it is perfection. For all of us in Christ, it is a glorified body and eternal inheritance. For many of us in Christ, it includes crowns in heaven that we will lay at His feet. The only thing that can truly set us free from the comparison game is knowing that God is not constrained by our profile, our headlines, our expectation.
Thank God for that.
He is so much greater than the box we’ve put Him in. He is the “author and perfecter of our faith” and is capable and caring. Sometimes, He says no. Sometimes, He says “no” for a lonnnng time. But, He’s got His reasons, His plan, His headline which will blow us all away when we see it face to face: