All Good Things Must Come to an End. Really?

All Good Things Must Come to an End. Really?

the endHave you considered that every good thing in this life must come to an end? Whether it is:

  • a great movie,
  • a vacation,
  • an outstanding glass of wine,
  • a perfectly grilled steak,
  • double digit gains on a 401(k),
  • a youthful physique,
  • good health,
  • a holiday celebration,
  • a kiss,
  • or a sunny day…

Nothing, absolutely nothing, lasts forever. Well, except for one thing. There is one good thing that does last forever. One good thing that:

  • it never loses its flavor,
  • never leaves us in debt or loses its beauty,
  • it never lets us down,
  • never comes up empty,
  • it never loses its ability to make us happy and joyful even in the worst of times.

It is 100% dependable. It. Never. Ends.

The “It” that I speak of is actually He: none other than God himself! Have we considered that our constant search for happiness and joy in this life comes up short because we are too focused on what we can touch, taste, see, and smell, rather than what is unseen: God himself? By Holy Spirit-empowered faith, God can be experienced and known in a way that gives us joy that changes us and changes how we respond to our challenges.

Colossians 3:1-3 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden in Christ in God.”

As I meditated on this passage, it was like a list of earthly joys rolled through my mind and it struck me again just how fleeting each one is. But then the Holy Spirit drew my attention to the fact that God IS. He never changes. Even though the times are ominous, he never changes.

The joy we have in God was C.S. Lewis’ focus during the dark days of World War II. He cut through the temporal joys and struck right to the heart: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Lewis’ “Infinite joy” is an echo of what God has already told us in Psalm 16:11. In referring to Himself, He says through the Psalmist, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

In times of persecution, the writer of Hebrews does not lament the loss of happiness nor does he try to gin-up suffering people with promises or plans for how to restore earthly joys. Instead, he brings his readers’ attention back to foundational joy: Jesus and all that he has done for them.

Let us not exchange what is true joy for what is temporary happiness.

What has God done for you? Is it more than forgiveness? Although forgiveness is essential—yes!  There is much more to be joyful about. Take a quick look by downloading Your Identity from A to Z. Or, consider Real Hope for Your Home! This short, practical book will help you see how all that God has done for you in Christ gives us enduring joy that changes us and restores relationships.

Are We Missing Out on this Incredible Resource?

Are We Missing Out on this Incredible Resource?

comfortWhen was the last time you stopped and really thanked God for your church family?

A few weeks ago, Leslee, our children and I joined my extended and previous church family to celebrate the baptism and fifth birthday of my nephew, Luca.  As some of you know, Luca is dying of brain cancer (please pray for him!)  The time featured a conflicting blend of emotions: sadness, brotherly love, concern, and even joy.

One of the pastors, retired, sat down next to Luca and tenderly shared about God’s love by weaving together two similar but different threads; my sister’s preparation of a special breakfast just the day before and then the pastor’s own story of his wife’s care when he himself suffered from five strokes that he described as “boo-boos in his head” (which is the way little Luca describes the wrenching pain in his head).

What a blessing it was to be with people with whom I had known for over 40 years.  Some, I had served with in the trenches.  While I have not been at that church for 13 years, the mettle of their love has been demonstrated in so many ways to my extended family… always bringing a meal, a gift, providing care, praying, and showing up in hospitals at all hours.

On the lighter side, I reminisced with a couple who helped me grill about 100 pounds of steak and chicken one blazing hot summer day as part of an annual thank you party for our ministry volunteers.  I think we each sweated off 15 pounds that day.

  • My brother-in-law’s sister, a Disney employee, who flew up from Florida just for this event, shared some tricks for doing Disney more affordably.
  • Three of Luca’s grandparents were there. Just the presence of grandparents in distressing times imbues one with confidence, doesn’t it? When all we see is darkness, they remind us, “You will make it through”.
  • A loud mix of teenagers on the porch all so close that you just think of them as family whether they really are or not. Just weeks ago, three of those teens visited my house to watch the Super Bowl with us.
  • This is a group I have seen over and over at birthday celebrations, Fourth of July, Easter, Thanksgiving, at the hospitals, it is a group that ministers faithfully and powerfully. I think it is probably unusual. I know people who attend church but do not have these kinds of enduring relationships.

I stop to think, how would any of us get through this life without the love and support of church family—like this?

And then there’s the pained smile of little Luca, clinging tightly to his mother and who would trade being the center of attention to simply be able to walk to his toy box.  All of these people –I imagine around 75 in total—all there for him but we all benefitted in simple yet profound ways from the bond that is.

As we made the two-hour drive home, Leslee and the kids shared their little conversations, moments, and experiences, and it struck me again how much of a privilege it is to live in the body of Christ.  How often do we take our relationships at church for granted?

Simplified Communication

Simplified Communication

simple communicationLife.  Overcomplicated!  Hard.  To.  Simplify.  Argh!

Whether it is making a simple weekend plan or figuring out exactly how to help someone struggling with fear, worry or anxiety; we can quickly get frustrated.  Our identity as ambassadors for Jesus Christ who speak grace according to the need of the moment, can instantly degrade into something like Genghis Kahn demanding food after a long day of marauding the countryside.  Bringing clarity and resolution to the issues in our hearts is not turn-key.  Wisdom, discernment, and understanding are needed but those usually require more time.  Where do you start?  How do you minister in the moment especially if you’re short on time?  Here is a helpful little diagnostic tool that quickly brings initial clarity and a way forward.

It is what I call the “1 to 10 scale”.  Sophisticated isn’t it?  To bring definition to an otherwise complicated, and sometimes emotional situation, especially when time is short I will sometimes ask, “On a 1-10 scale, 1 being good, 10 being bad… how do you feel about the situation?”  Or, I might say, “Rate each of the three issues you are struggling with.” Or, “Over the past two weeks, how intense has your struggle been with this?”

If someone is struggling with fear, worry, and anxiety.  I will ask, “On the WAF scale (worry, anxiety, and fear) where are you?  A “1, 2, or 3” answer means the issue is not exigent.  I can give a word of encouragement, pray about it with them and move on–but come back to it.  On the other hand, an “8, 9, or 10” means that I need to take time for a fuller conversation now or soon.

When trying to communicate, I find the scale extremely helpful.  When I can’t figure out exactly how one feels about something such as a career path or how one feels about a particular friend for example, a number is quite helpful in cutting through the conflicting emotions and forces a clearer idea of the intensity of the struggle.

Certainly, it would be counterproductive to reduce all such conversations to the 1-10 scale.  This is only a diagnostic tool.  But it is helpful tool at certain times.  While it is not sufficient to deal with most situations, it is a decent barometer for discernment, understanding, and formulating a word of grace in the moment.