TAKING THE JUMP (embracing the gift)

“I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”  – Jeremiah 45:5

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with Him in glory.”  – Colossians 3:3-4

The bible constantly tells us our life is simply a gift given to us by God. Christianity is constantly compared to death, and life, and we are constantly told to die in order to live. Yet how often do we see this gift of life as a prize given to us by God? How often do we live as if our life is a gift given by God? How easy it is to underestimate the value given to us in Jeremiah 45:5!

In order to truly recognize our value, we first must look at the meaning of a gift. A gift is something given, from one person to another, and is seen as new to the one receiving the gift. In order for your life to be given to you as a gift, it first belongs to Christ, because He is the one giving it, which means in order for you to receive this gift, you must first give the entirety of yourself over to Christ. Only then can He bestow upon you His gift of true life, and true freedom in His love. It requires reckless abandon – to give our life to something we don’t understand, and to realize that the questions we have for Him often cannot be answered without first surrendering our own doubt to Him and letting Him guide us through our questioning. This cannot be done until we surrender all control.

“Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions.” – Oswald Chambers

Abandonment is refusing luxury. Have you abandoned your questioning and learned to rely and trust completely on Him? Our questioning is nothing other than a lack of trust. We must break ourselves of that habit, and embrace the knowledge He has given, telling us and assuring us that HE HAS EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL.

Think of it as a cliff jump into water below. If we continually question the safety of the jump, we will never jump, and we will never realize where the joy of the jump comes from – and that is in the rush of the unknown. In a sense of complete safety, there is no unknown, and all excitement is lost. Life cannot be lived in a place of complete safety, and neither can our spiritual lives, because we live in a world where unknowns will always be present. We control nothing, and He controls everything. He isn’t going to tell us what to expect, but He is continually inviting us to quit pretending we know what’s coming and simply embrace His control in the midst of the unknown. Only when we let go and embrace the beauty of His unknown can we truly see our destination, or not fear not knowing where exactly that destination is. Only when we let go can we truly be given our lives as a gift, and see them as such, living them according to the plan arranged by the only one who knows the map and hidden surprises better than ourselves.

See your life as a gift given to you, and recognize that the plan He has given in His gift is designed exactly how you need it to be – whether you know it or not. Trust His plan, embrace His unknown, and always remember, above all, that His gift is exactly that, and it is good.

BUSY BEING BORN

He who is not busy being born is busy dying.

I’m guessing that’s something you’ve heard before. We all use it, or something similar to it, to describe how busy and awesome and energetic we are about our life. It’s a line we tell people when they tell us we have too much going on. It often turns into a line to validate our busyness.

And, honestly, it’s kind of disheartening.

How are we supposed to always be in a state of birth? I thought that’s what junior high, high school, and college were for? I thought after that, it was all an arrival. It was all pastel-colored balloons and warm milk at the first request. After all, we’re no longer paying to work – we’re now getting payed. Doesn’t arriving look like a little piece of paper with a watermark on the back?

If only life was that simple. And meaningless.

The truth is, we are creatures in constant evolution. Anyone who has experienced enough life to look back can tell you that. We change daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. We always have something we don’t have time to finish, and we’re always filling ourselves with information we’ll never use again. To realize how much you’ve changed just look back on the last five years.

For me, I decided to steer away from a career I’ve wanted since I was six. I started writing and reading for fun. I’ve learned what grace is, accepted it, and put away the legalistic religion I lived earlier in life. I’ve grown closer with some friends, lost some others, and made some new ones along the way. I’ve learned a college degree doesn’t equal success, almost quit, and decided against it. I’ve gone to one school for longer than normal, finished one school earlier than expected, and decided I’m probably going to go to another school for something I never would have predicted, all the while committing to remaining open to whatever wrench God throws in there along the way. I’m prepared to be scared – I’ve even grown to the point where I look forward to it. I’ve learned that change is usually good, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. I’ve grown closer to being born, but my due date still hasn’t come. I’m still in the process.

That’s the beautiful thing about life. There’s always a glowing red exit sign we can follow to something different. We’re never trapped, even if it really feels like it sometimes. God is too big for that. The exit sign may lead to something that scares us, but if He showed us the exit, He’ll make sure we can get through whatever is on the other side as long as we trust him and push forward.

God is good at changing directions. If He asks, go ahead and let Him change yours. It’ll likely scare you to death, but you’ll love where the next exit will take you.

(THE OTHER SIDE OF) ETERNAL LIFE: A THEORY

*This is a theory I have on the simplified Christian view of Hell – not the biblical view, but rather how we as humans have muddied that view. In my own life, I believe I fall victim to this view in order to justify my actions, so I’m simply writing this to throw it out there and see what other people think. If you feel the need, please criticize me.

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  – John 17:3

All throughout scripture, Eternal Life is mentioned. As John 17:3 states, this Eternal Life is found only through knowing god, and recognizing Jesus Christ as your savior. This is a pretty standard, commonplace teaching in Christianity. We grow up being taught that the gift of God is eternal life, and constantly thank God for this gift.

But what about the other side of the statement? What about those that never accept the Gospel? Why do we never hear of their fate in the same manner?

The truth is, we do. Matthew 25:46 describes hell as “eternal punishment,” and heaven as “eternal life.” So I suppose my question is why do we tend to overlook this view of Hell? I have a theory, and it involves a new perspective. We often see hell as death, which in our human minds triggers an end, or the end. We picture Hell as a sort of ‘end of chances,’ and basically end up discussing it as “not heaven” rather than what it really is. In doing so, we completely discredit hell for what the Bible tells us it really is.  We, as Christians, can easily end up picturing the afterlife as either never-ending joy with Christ, or a black room. Basically, we try to look away from the eternal reality of hell in order to brush aside the urgency of sharing the gospel. I believe we live in a denial of the reality of hell because of our great desire to live in an ideal world where God rescues all from hell, whether they recognize Him for doing so or not.

The truth, however, isn’t ideal. And it is urgent.

The truth is, everyone gets eternal life, but others see a different side of it. While some will experience eternal joy and peace with Christ, others will experience, as Matthew 25:46 says, “eternal punishment.” This eternal punishment is more than a black room, or an end to it all. It is never-ending, and it is punishment. There’s no mediocre, in-between area for the non-believers we really like, no matter how much we all wish there was one. It is eternal either way, and it’s the job of Christians to show the people we love which way to choose. Until we see hell as the other side of eternal life, and live with that in mind, I’m not sure we really have the ability to empathize and truly anguish as Paul did over the fate of the unsaved.

Do you realize we’re all headed to an eternity with two options? And do you realize that you have the ability to help people decide which option to choose? There is no middle ground. There is no mediocre punishment. There is no ideal world where those that reject God receive heaven. Live as a warning to this fact out of love for all of those who are just as unrighteous as you and I. No one deserves heaven, and everyone deserves hell, but everyone deserves to hear their options as well. Not everyone will accept them, and not everyone will believe them. But everyone does have the right to know what their options are.

Do you see both sides of eternity? Or do you only see eternal heaven, while blocking the reality that is eternal hell? Realize there are only two options in eternity – and you have the power to tell what those are and how to choose the better.

CLINGING TO LIFE (Pull the plug)

“I have been crucified with Christ.” – Galatians 2:20

“Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.” – Romans 6:5

Possibly the largest lesson of the New Testament is the need we all have to die to ourselves. Have you reached that point? I haven’t. I know that my own selfishness has yet to be completely killed. I know I still find myself ignoring God at times in order to indulge in my own desires, and those desires definitely aren’t glorifying to God.

I know also that I’m on life support. I know I’m close. I’m in a coma to this life, largely unaware of myself and focused on God, but my nature makes it extremely hard to just pull the plug. I know that once that plug is pulled, I no longer have control, and the only life I’ve ever really known is gone. Once that plug is pulled, I have no say over myself or my life, and am an eternal servant of God’s . I know that God is good, and His way is better than my own, but I also know that I have control when it’s my life, and His life for me is completely unknown.

We, as a broken humanity, thirst for control, which is why the Gospel is so hard for us to fully accept. The Gospel requires us to forfeit all of our control. “If we lose our lives, we will save them.” The Gospel requires us to be totally dependent on Him, and that is counter to our nature.

Some people will tell me they have completely given up control, and 90% of those people are liars. They are liars with good intentions, but liars just the same. Killing 100% of ourselves is the hardest thing for us to do, because there is always something to grasp at on the way to the grave, even when the grave is really just the place new life begins.

Do you see your death as your birth? Are you ready to die to your own will? I don’t know if any of us can be until we realize  where we are now is not life, and we realize how cheated we have been while living under our own power. I am ready to quit cheating myself – are you? Pull the plug and let’s start life.

-A man on life support.