Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Meaning of Life Part 2: Making Christ Known

We are on this earth to know God and to make him known. If we only seek to know God more, we are only performing half of our job. We are expected to seek to make him known to those around us.

Jesus said we make God known by making Christ known. So if we want to fulfill our purpose, we will make Christ known.

The problem with this world is sin. Political, psychological, social, or economic solutions are simply treating the symptoms. The only thing we can do to make the world a better place is to make Christ known because only Christ can change hearts. If you want the world to be a better place, make Christ known. If you want the world your children and grandchildren live in to be a better place, make Christ known. If you want to do all you can to touch the future through your children, make Christ known to them.

It gets even better – you are making Christ known wherever you go:

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20).

Notice that it doesn’t say we might be ambassadors, that we can be, or that we should be. We are ambassadors.

We are ambassadors for Christ, and we represent Him whether we want to or not. If people know – or even think – you are a Christian, you are representing Christ. The nonbelievers who know you will judge the Gospel based on how you have lived it before them. It's not fair, but that's how it works. People tend to look prejudicially at an entire group based on the actions of a few examples. People are very quick to do this to Christians.

Everywhere we go, we are representing Christ, making Him known to the people around us. We have a responsibility to both Christ and to those souls with whom we have contact to do this very well.

In some ways it is both easier and harder to make Christ known to your kids than it is with other people, but the basic principles will be the same. And what are those basic principles?

To properly represent Christ, to make Him known in our world, we have to be godly men and women who are ready, willing, and able to share the Faith, defend the Faith, and apply the Faith to our world.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to look at each point of that in detail.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Knowing God: A Sidebar On Prayer

Prayer is a fundamental part of spiritual growth. It's also badly neglected. Why is that? I think part of the problem is that we don't appreciate it. Let's step back and look at prayer for a bit.

The Privilege
It's amazing that we're even allowed to pray. Think about this: God is running a universe. He sees and hears everything. He takes care of galaxies. He's got plenty to keep himself busy. Where you're concerned, he knows what you need, what you want, and what you fear. He knows what you've done and where you're going. Why would he want to hear from you?

But he does! Prayer is not just allowed but commanded. He makes time for you to talk to him.

The Access
In the story of Esther, we get a picture of a royal court where the king is considered semi-divine. You do not even dare to approach the king silently. If he doesn't grant you permission to speak, just standing in front of him draws a death sentence.

The picture of prayer is the exact opposite. We are not subjects standing, trembling, before the throne hoping to be granted an audience. We are children who run up to daddy and climb into his lap and talk to him. This daddy is never too tired to listen to us after a long day. He lets us prattle on and on about things he already knows. And while we talk, he holds us and sings over us and loves us.

The Beauty
God doesn't just put up with our prayers; he cherishes them. He views them as incense. We make his abode more beautiful, in his eyes, with the prayers we offer to him. (Though I'm sure all prayers aren't equal in this regard.) Our pitiful offerings are like a child's treasured "artwork" posted on the refrigerator.

Make the time to avail yourself of the privilege of access to a king who receives your every word as a treasured gift. "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are You Required to Serve Me?

A black man with a catering business should not be required to cater an event for the KKK. A gay woman with a photography business should not be required to photograph an event called "Stopping the Homosexual Agenda." If I ran a printing shop, I should not (white gentile that I am) have to provide any signs or any other materials for a neo-Nazi march against teaching the reality of the Holocaust.

Sometimes people object morally to something so much that they simply cannot in good conscience profit from it. It's not rejecting a person. If someone who was a KKK member walked into any restaurant, he'd be served. It's not about discriminating against people; it's about refusing to participate in an event. And that should be okay.

And in the examples I've given above, it is. There is no law (as far as I know) requiring a black man (or anyone else) to cater for the KKK.

But apparently a Christian can be forced to cater a same-sex wedding reception. And to take pictures. And to print programs. Next will people be required to attend the things?

Why can people be forced to do these things? Because homosexuals are a special, protected group. We're not, and we're not likely to be.

So what now?

People who have gotten in trouble have been open about their objections. You don't have to be. You can just refuse. "I don't have an availability there." Already scheduled? "I'm sorry, I have a conflict, I'm going to have to cancel."

Are they pressing for details? I don't know if this is an issue about which we can safely midwife them, but it's something to ponder.

But ultimately, we can do little. This society is simply going that way. So what, then?

The gospel.

Homosexuality has been embraced in our society alongside greed, covetousness, gluttony, and all kinds of sexual sins. It is not the disease. It is a symptom. As societies spiral down into sin, this rears its head. And this will only turn around if a society repents and turns to God. That's where we should focus our energy.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Knowing God

"Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me..." (Jer 9:23-24).

We exist to know God and make him known. So how do we know God?

Oddly enough, the Bible doesn’t offer a lot on that topic. It says that knowing God is the greatest thing we can do, but it’s short on the how. However, certain useful techniques have been passed down through the generations, and they are generally derived from Scripture. But the Bible doesn’t have a big flashing “how to know God more” by them.

There’s probably little that’s going to be a big surprise. How do you get to know anyone? How did you get to know your mate enough to know that you wanted to get married? You spent time with him or her. To some degree you can get to know someone in a group setting, but after a while you have to spend some time alone to get really close. You talk. You listen.

How do we listen to God? Through the Bible. We cannot know God without being thoroughly familiar with what He has said to us. There are degrees to being in the Word. Most basic is Bible reading – simply reading what’s on the page. It's important to remember that you're not just reading a book. Read it with the expectation that this is a letter from God, infused with the Spirit, written for the purpose of revealing him to you. That kind of reading makes a difference.

Next is study – sometimes what’s on the page doesn’t mean what it appears to mean with casual reading; going deeper into the meaning of the text is essential to understanding the Word which is essential to knowing the Author. Next comes memorization; nothing gets the Scriptures in you like intentionally committing parts of it to memory. Verses you memorize will resurface when you need them – they can keep you from sin, comfort you during trying times, or help you counsel others. Next comes meditation. Christian meditation is not like Eastern meditation; they empty their minds where we fill our minds with Scripture. Meditation is working a Scripture over and over in your mind, testing yourself against it and looking for every implication for your life. You can meditate without memorizing – if you have your Bible in front of you – but the advice in the Bible is to meditate on the Word day and night, and you cannot do that without memorizing. But when you can take the Word with you, you can focus on the Scriptures in traffic, waiting in line, between meetings, or while waiting for your child to finish smearing her dinner through her hair.

So the hierarchy of the Word is casual reading, study, memorization, and meditation. But if you stop there, you’ve left out the most important part. Obedience is an essential element in interacting with the Bible, and it is essential in knowing Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21). If you want to have a deeper relationship with Christ, you must obey what you’ve gleaned from the Bible.

Think of it like a hand. Bible reading, study, memorization, and meditation are the fingers, but without obedience – the thumb – you cannot hold onto things. Without obedience you cannot hold tightly to God. As Croft M. Pentz said, “Let Christ first work in you; then he will work through you.”

The advice of J.I. Packer in his classic Knowing God is “listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; [turning each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God;] … accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; [finally] recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.”

As Mr. Packer mentioned, after the Word we have prayer. Any king may send a memo to his subjects, but our Heavenly Father, the King of everything invites, no requires, us – his subjects and also his dearly loved children – to climb up in his lap and talk to him. And that is the attitude we have to approach God with. When we pray we are not presenting a genie with a wish list; we are approaching the throne of Almighty God both humbly and boldly. Humbly because, if we have any sense at all, we will tremble just a bit at the thought of approaching a holy God. Boldly because we have been adopted into the family of God and approach him as a dearly loved child.

We can approach him boldly, but we must never forget that we do not pray primarily to get what we want. We can and should ask our Father for what we need and even want, but the primary purpose of prayer is intimacy with the Almighty.

There are some other spiritual disciplines that can help foster this intimacy with Christ. Solitude and silence tend to go together quite well. Get alone with God – for prayer, for meditation, for time in the scriptures. And sometimes make it silent time – we don’t have to have the radio or tv on all the time. Having your devotional time in a corner of Starbucks or on the bus is ok on occasion, but not all the time. Solitude and silence create an atmosphere in which we can more easily hear God.

The final spiritual disciple I want to talk about here is a rather unpopular one in our country – fasting. I’m not a big fan myself – I don’t miss many meals. But fasting has been used throughout the generations to grow closer to our Maker. In Drawing Close to God author Stephen Eyre says, “Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is broader than our quiet times. We may set aside half an hour for a quiet time, but a fast goes through a day or more. It is a helpful tool, however, because as a spiritual discipline, fasting enhances our spiritual sensitivity. …Like no other discipline, fasting involves all of me, body and soul, in the pursuit of God. When my body is hungry, my appetite working overtime and my will wavering, I am reminded that I have chosen God above all other desires. Hunger actually becomes my friend. Every hunger pang I feel reminds me to lift my requests to God. Each food commercial is an opportunity to say no to food and yes to God.”

Fasting does not have to be an entire day without food. Some people simply skip a meal or two. Others skip kinds of foods – a favorite that they are likely to crave if they abstain for very long. Whatever you decide to do just be sure that you are, as Jesus warned, doing everything for the right reason. And consult with your doctor before trying anything too extreme.

I’m not going to ask anyone to fast – you’re going to have to decide for yourself if that’s for you or not – but I am going to ask you to do something with all of this. Do you spend time in the word pretty much every day? If not, that’s where you need to start. If you do, move up the chain of involvement with the Bible at least one step. If you don’t already, start spending time in prayer – not just frantic prayers for help throughout the day but disciplined, intentional prayer. Try to get away from the noise of life at least a couple of times a week and spend time in silence and solitude with the Lord.

In committing to change, don’t get too ambitious or you’re likely to give up. As Kent Hughes points out in his Disciplines of a Godly Man, it is far better to start out with 15 minutes a day – read for 5 minutes, reflect on what you read for 5 minutes, and then pray about what you read for 5 minutes. As you get into the habit, your time commitment will probably grow, but start small. And if you can’t do it seven days a week, do what you can and grow from there. If you’re committing to study the word, you may find that you can only do that a couple of days a week – that’s fine! Just commit to moving into greater familiarity with God’s word and therefore with God.

I know some of you are wondering where you could possibly find another 15 minutes in your day. It may be time to prioritize. What is more important – knowing your God and Savior more or SportsCenter? Maybe you have to spend less time with the newspaper. Maybe you need to pick a tv show to give up. Guys, if your wife happens to be the mother of a small child, you might need to ask her if you can help her make some time in her day. Maybe there is one particular chore you can take over; maybe it’ll be something different everyday. Men we are responsible for our wives’ spiritual growth, so we need to make sure we make room in their lives for that growth.

Finally, don't expect to "feel different" — especially not overnight. The day will come when you actually want to sit down with your Bible instead of the newspaper. But that may not happen for two months. And when it does happen, the next day it may be harder than usual to get yourself to open your Bible. These things are called spiritual disciplines for a reason. But if you invest in this, the reward will be far greater than what you put in.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is the Meaning of Life?

Why are we here? Why are we on this earth? Pretty much everyone asks that question at some time in their life. Just about every society has had an answer to that question. Ours, however, doesn’t seem to offer one. In fact, there are a number of popular philosophies that assert that there is no reason why we are here. To them, life is without meaning or purpose. Oddly enough, the chief proponents of these philosophies tend to commit suicide.

We have a better answer than that: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere Him” (Psalm 33:8).

What God wants from everyone in the world is for us to fear and revere him. However you want to phrase it — God’s will for your life, the meaning of life, your purpose — it all boils down to one simple concept. We are supposed to know God more and more and seek to help others know him. Let’s refine it a little more. “God” can be so broadly applied; many think just believing in some concept of God is enough to get a person to heaven. It’s not. So let’s take any ambiguity out of it.

The reason you and I are on this earth is to know God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and make him known.

Let’s look at this concept a little closer. In Genesis chapter 3 we get an interesting picture of God. He comes to visit with Adam after the day’s work is done — just to chat. This shows that we were made to commune with him.

In Jeremiah, the Lord says, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me..." (9:23-24).

Skip forward to Jesus’ life. We all know John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus came, lived, and died so that we could have everlasting life.

On the night that Jesus was arrested, he prayed, “... This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

Eternal life is more than heaven; it's knowing God. So Jesus came, lived and died so that we could know God. That's how big a deal this is.

It is amazing that a holy God would want us to know Him. Our triune God was perfectly happy communing with himself before making us, and yet he decided to create us, knowing the price that would eventually have to be paid so that he could have a relationship with us. Is it not amazing that we are invited into a closer relationship with God Almighty? He created us — for no good reason. He redeemed us out of the goodness of his heart — what more could we ask for? And yet he says he wants more — for us to know him. This is the reason we were made. This is the reason we were saved. It is the reason we exist.

Paul demonstrated this for us when he wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ …” (Philippians 1:21). We’ve all seen shirts saying things like “football is life” or “golf is life;” Paul’s t-shirt would say, “Christ is life.” Those for whom football is life are obsessed with the game. They watch it, read about it, think about it, and talk about it as often as they possibly can. It consumes them. Paul was consumed by Christ. He made his life about knowing Jesus more and more.

How can we do the same? Paul left us a glimpse into his mind that can help us to have his attitude.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Phil 3:8). Everything Paul had that the world might consider of value — family, possessions, renown, pride, his own life — he looked at as garbage when compared to the “surpassing greatness” of knowing Christ more. Much as the choice between a moldy piece of bread or a steak is a no-brainer for most of us, when it came time to choose between Jesus and something else, for Paul there was no choice.

But it is not enough to simply know God. We are to share him. Jesus commanded us, “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

When the man who had been host to the legion of demons became a disciple of Jesus, the Lord’s instructions to him were not to build a church, tithe, or start an anti-abortion campaign. His instructions to that man were, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). This is not to say that building a church, tithing, or starting an anti-abortion campaign are bad — far from. But that is not what is most important to Jesus. God’s will for every Christian’s life can be stated quite simply: Know God and make him known.

Why does this matter? It’s said, “There's no point in carrying the ball unless you know where the goal is.” But knowing your purpose in life can help you filter through all the clutter and see what is important. Many Christians are looking for "God's will for my life." This is it. The truth is, in most cases, God isn't hung up on the details. And if he is, he'll let you know. As one pastor put it, most of the time, finding God's will for your life is like looking for hay in a haystack. Just pick one!

If you are doing something or if you are contemplating doing something, and if you cannot see how it could help you know God more or make him known, you don’t need to be doing it — it is out of “God’s will for your life.” If what you are doing or want to do can help you know God more and make him known, then it's good.

So the question for us all is, "Right now am I doing anything to know God and make him known?" Next time we'll look at ways to do that.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Did Jesus Say Nothing About Homosexuality?

I'm loathe to get onto this topic again, but in the wake of the Duck Dynasty/homosexuality controversy, I feel like we need to look at an objection that so frequently appears in these discussions.

The pro-same-sex marriage crowd, whether Christian or not, likes to say that Jesus never condemned homosexuality — therefore it isn't a sin. And there is no record of Jesus ever explicitly mentioning homosexuality.

He did one better.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person" (Matt 15:19-20a).

What did Jesus mean by "sexual immorality?" He was pointing the Mosaic Law, to Leviticus 18. Your Bible probably has a heading for the section like "unlawful sexual relations." That is sexual immorality. The chapter covers incest (in some detail), adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality. Jesus condemned all of those sins in one fell swoop.

I can hear the objections already: "But that's the Old Testament. If you're going to apply those rules, you have to apply the ones about eating shellfish and mixing fabrics. Jesus said, 'not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law.'"

I love it when y'all quote the Bible, and I'm glad you brought up that passage. It actually explains why we don't have to worry about shellfish and polyester. The entire verse says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matt 5:17-18 emphasis added).

The Law will not pass away, but most of it has been fulfilled.

Jesus himself, in the first passage I quoted, threw out the dietary rules, and probably the whole "holiness code." The parallel passage in Mark explicitly says, "Thus he declared all foods clean" (7:19). Simply touching something or eating something doesn't defile you, he says; it's what you decide to do.

The rest of the New Testament takes that view of the Law. Hebrews describes it as an illustration that was put in place until a "new order" was established by Christ (9:8-10, 10:1-12). Paul said it was given to teach us about sin until Christ (Rom 7:7-13, Gal 3:19). When the apostles had to determine what part of the Old Testament applied to Christians, they said, "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality" (Acts 15:24-29). There's that word again.

There are different parts of the Law of Moses. Some of it was supposed to tell them how to run a country; it gave them their legal system. Some of it was to make them realize how hard it is to come to God and how dirty we are just because we're human. Those parts don't apply anymore. They've served their purpose. The moral instructions — the ten commandments, the rules about sexual immorality, the rules about mistreating the poor and your neighbor, etc. — still apply.

So to sum up, Jesus condemned "sexual immorality," which includes homosexuality, in a way that lets us off the hook for shellfish and polyester.

I can hear the next objection: "But when he said that, he did also mentioned 'evil thoughts, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, slander.'"

Yes, that's a great point. All of those thing defile us.

But there's only one thing in that list people are trying to make into a good thing. There's one thing people are trying to tell us we can't call sin. It's not murder. It's not slander. It's not adultery (though that's probably coming soon).

The truth is, homosexual relations are only one sin out of many that defile people. We should want to stamp out greed and theft and covetousness. Homosexual relations are not a special sin. But it's one that is hateful to God and destructive to the sinner, and yet we're being told we can't call it a sin.

I was a child during the "greed is good" era. I don't know how the Church responded to it. I hope there were many voices crying out that greed is not only not good, it is evil and toxic.

You know what else greed is? It's natural. Humans, in their natural state, are greedy. Humans are also lustful — where do you think adultery comes from? They're selfish and petty and violent.

There are a lot of things that come naturally to human beings that are wrong. Jesus died to put them all to death. But he requires us to call them sin and then to repent.

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Related:
Hate the Sin ...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Should I Give?

Christianity Today asks "Should I Give a Cow or Cash for Christmas?" They look at giving to the poor in the world via animals, cash (whether as gifts or loans), and digging water wells. It's well worth reading.

If you want to give an animal, cash, or water, I'd like to commend World Vision to you out of the many good options. That's where our family gives.

For your convenience, Heifer International is another popular place to give.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Devoting Your Mind in 2014

It's that time of year again. Not for Christmas shopping — for picking out a daily devotional for next year. If that is something you tend to do, and even if it's not, I'd like to recommend a different approach this year.

Instead of spending the next year reading someone commenting on one Bible verse taken out of context (I'm not a big fan of the daily devotional books, I admit), take the time and learn a little about God, Jesus, Bibliology, world views, the resurrection, and church history.

Rick Cornish wrote a little series of books: 5-Minute Theologian, 5-Minute Apologist, and 5-Minute Church Historian. Each has 100 chapters of 2-3 pages apiece. Five minutes on a theology or apologetic topic will not give you a seminary level understanding of that truth, but it will give you a better understanding. And that is a good thing for you and for the Church corporately.

(Theology: I don't agree with everything he says, but he's fair and thoughtful about everything. Apologetics: He's a typical evangelical, even when that's not always a good thing, but I think you'll be OK. Historian: I haven't read it yet, but it's harder to screw that up, so I'm comfortable saying "let's read it".)

Reading one chapter a day will take up 300 days. Double up here and there and you can be done by the fall. After that, I suggest a different kind of daily devotional. (I know what I said above, but this one's better. A lot.)

John Stott's Through the Bible, Through the Year is designed to start in September following the church year. It starts in the Old Testament, builds to Advent, goes into the life of Christ and Easter, then finishes out the New Testament. Being Stott, each entry is well-written, insightful, and based in a solid understanding of the passage of the day.

If you don't want to read the 5-Minute books, you can pick this one up and just start a quarter of the way through it (week 18).

I know I'm asking you to buy four books instead of one, but it won't be so bad if you space the purchases out. And I think you'll read these books again or loan them out. In short, you'll get your money's worth, and you'll get an solid couple of years of learning to better love the Lord with your mind.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Homosexuality a Birth Defect?

It's time we change the way we think and talk about homosexuality.

The other side says homosexuals are "born that way." Even if they're not entirely right, it's unlikely they're entirely wrong. Living the lifestyle certainly requires a choice, but I don't think many would choose the burden of same-sex attraction (SSA) if they had a choice.

So let's just give the other side the "born that way." What then?

In biology, what do you call a genetic trait (or congenital condition) that makes a person less likely to successfully pass on their genes? A negative mutation. In layman's terms, a birth defect.

Whether SSA turns out to be the result of a gene that people inherit, of a faulty genetic process, or of hormones/chemicals gone wrong the result is a person with tendencies that deviate from the biological (never mind the social) norm.

What would it mean if we chose to think of SSA as a birth defect? I think there are two potential benefits. First, it changes the debate from "how do we stop these people from doing these things" (however you may feel about the things — the right and left have very different views) to "what should we do about this condition these people have." It makes the conversation less confrontational and also less about "rights" and more about healthy and normal.

Second, it could make us change how we approach these people and the whole topic. If homosexuals are simply people who make (to the rest of us) completely inexplicable choices, they are treated the same way we would treat a compulsive liar. They choose to do wrong, and they need to stop it right now.

If they are the victim of their circumstances, they are to be pitied and helped and understood. It makes us realize that being "normal" is impossible for them and acting normal is a huge uphill battle. Even those who, by the grace of God, find an opposite sex mate and build a normal life will always be plagued by this bug in their programming.

The obvious objection from the right is "Wouldn't this make homosexuality OK?" No, I don't think it would. Think about some of the other problems people can have. People with Tourette syndrome are still expected to learn to control their impulses. Kids with various mental problems are still expected to learn to sit quietly and not hit or bite. We don't decide something is fine because their birth defect causes it. But we are more patient with them.

The obvious objection from the left is "It's mean." But it's neither unkind nor small minded. It's accurate. It may not seem nice, but it's the best explanation for their situation. It's also a way to make the right more understanding which you have to agree is a good thing.

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Related:
One Among Many

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Priorities

It's one of those passages I have a love-hate relationship with:
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?" (2Pet 3:9-11a)
The author's emphasis is clearly on holy living, but this passage always forces me to think about something else, too — namely, since everything will be destroyed, what should I spend my time on?

There are so many things that need to be done. Not just dishes and laundry. There are big things that need to be done. Someone needs to fix this mess! I want to take over or supplant my field's professional organization, get on the city council, school board, and maybe Congress. That's on top of things I think I need to learn, books I want to read, and books I want to write. There's not only not enough time in a day; there's not enough time in a life.

So how do we thin out the list? Ask, "What's going to last?"

When everything burns up, what will be left? What will really matter in the grand scheme of things?

You can certainly take this too far — someone's got to run the country, and I think it's good if as many of those people as possible are Christians. And Jesus went to weddings and parties. Life's not all about work, even kingdom work.

But it's also possible to cop out too easy. There are "important" things that aren't, really. Even if they are really important, are they important enough to distract us from the work of the kingdom? Are we building things that will burn at the expense of the things that would last?

People spend their time on what moves them. It's normal to find yourself caught up in the things of this world. How much time are we spending on trivial things? How much do we live like everyone else? Do we blend in with the "normal" people around us?

We're not supposed to be normal. We're supposed to be weird in the right ways, to look at life differently, to live life differently. To have Christ's priorities.