Friday, September 28, 2012

The Death Bed Question

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,  for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.  Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."  Ecclesiastes 7:2

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin. 

The book of Ecclesiastes has been rocking my world these last few weeks.  Here's a little back-story of the book.  

The writer, King Solomon, was the wisest man to ever live on the Earth-- and also the wealthiest.  So I'm sure in that alone builds his credibility for him to be able to teach us a thing or two about life here on Earth. In the book, he actually tells us, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure." Ecclesiastes 2:10

So, the "Death Bed Question" was derived by yours truly when playing this game called "Hot Seat" with some friends of mine.  The game Hot Seat puts one person in a chair and the entire group asks them probing questions.  It can be a very dangerous game if played with the wrong crowd, but in our case, it was the right crowd.  So in my deep desire to hear people's hearts, I thought of this question, the "Death Bed Question". 

"If you were on your death bed, what is one thing you would want to look back and say, 'I'm glad that I did that." 

This question is usually a challenging one, because it makes people become vulnerable with disclosing their hearts deepest desires.  I think two it reveals even to themselves the things that would concern them most, and possibly be the cause of deep regret if they're fortunate enough to die in this expectant way.  

But from the question, I've gotten some very interesting answers.  Because when you get people to think about their death, you hear very interesting responses.  So, let's unpack this verse.  What King Solomon means is that it's better for us to go to the house of mourning, or the modern day term would be funeral, because of the effect death has on us.  Many of us can agree that when we're faced with the reality of death, a special concern for our lives arises out of nowhere.  Some common responses to death is that a person desires to make a lot of things right, usually with God or with family or with things in their lives.  A lot of people attend funerals with this realization that life is short and death is real, and their decisions should be taken more seriously.  So there's something about death that wakes us up, makes us realize that we're possibly not living to our fullest potential or capacity of enjoyment and fulfillment, or a term I like to us, living deeply enough.  All of life's shallow pursuits seem very meaningless when faced with death.  No one is thinking about their next drunken night or next sexual partner or disobedient action when sitting at a funeral.

And our wise brother Solomon is saying that it's better for us to realize that you're guaranteed death.  "For death is the destiny of everyone."  There's a lot of things in our lives we're unsure about, but death should not be one of them.  Whether it's tomorrow or when you're 30, or when you're 78, death is the end of us all.  So in this truth that it's unpredictable, and no one knows when they will die, King Solomon is saying enjoy your life and live deeply in God.  "The living should take this to heart."  

Better to be in the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting. Feasting in his culture and for the most part still in ours, usually happened at parties.  And there's a cloudiness that happens to us at parties or when we're enjoying life that we forget that we're fragile.  Have you ever noticed this shift in attitude?  When you're feeling 100%, you're not worrying about your health?  You're eating McDonald's every day and fried foods and walking out in traffic and jumping off roofs---but let that same person get sick.  They get more fragile with their health.  Every decision is carefully weighed.  Let that person have a near death experience, they're more fragile with life.  It's like in the midst of enjoyment and life is working well for us, we get this indestructible attitude.  But when death happens close to us, we're reminded that we're not so indestructible.  No human is.  

This is the response Solomon is wanting to communicate with us.  In times of feasting, it's easy to forget the fragility of life.  In times of fun, it's easy to lose the knowledge that it will end.  So here's what I'm submitting to you.

I'm not telling you that feasting is in itself wrong, or enjoying life in itself is wrong.  I'm saying whatever the product of your hearts desire when faced with death, enjoy life doing that.  If when faced with death you think about people, then enjoy deep relationships and friendships.  Be intentional with them, love them, serve them, give of yourself for them, go deep with them.  If when faced with death you think about making things right with God, then know this that you can be made right with God by receiving Jesus into your heart. Jesus is your righteousness and justification and how you're able to be made right with God.  Hey, and after that, enjoy your Savior.  Don't let religion sucker you in thinking you've signed up for a new lifestyle---no no no---please hear me.  You're signing up for life.  Yes, I'm saying if you're not living in Christ then you are dead.  You're not enjoying life foreal because you're not even alive.

So, this is to "the living".  Which means I'm talking to you because you're reading this.  Take heart that your destiny is death.  And if that scares you right now, that's the beauty of that text.  Now, don't ignore it, but respond to whatever turns up in your heart.  And remember this verse, also from the book of Ecclesiastes

"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?"  Ecclesiastes 2:24 

This verse is a reminder, that all pleasures and desires are from God.  So how can you fully enjoy the pleasure without the enjoying the giver of it?  So if you think you're enjoy life as dead, just imagine if you were to seek enjoyment in being alive?

So I'm asking you now.  If you were on your death bed, what is one thing you would want to look back and say, 'Hey, I'm glad that I did that.'?  Once you answer that, get to the root of those desires, and pursue it.  Stop wasting time missing out on enjoying life.  You're cheating yourself.

Without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin. 

If you all haven't noticed yet, I like to probe.  I like to press and wonder.  So, let me just probe and provoke a little bit. 

I'm learning that I'm on this quest, a journey with Jesus and I've reached a new patch of ground without any footprints to follow anymore.  And I'm exhausted with always have to trailblaze my own path, but I forget the main point of the journey is that it's with Jesus.  Is that not enough? Lol, that's the point of this blog. 

What is my true goal?  To enjoy the journey or to reach the destination?  I've been reading the book of Ecclesiastes and...let's just say King Solomon can sound a little nutty.  He almost sounds suicidal, with his exclamations and slippery slope fallacies showing up consistently throughout the book.  I even had a discussion with a friend of mine and she agreed that the book sounds like a serious joke.  But let us not forget that 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  So even though King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes sounds a little bit cuckoo, the scripture is God-breathed and is useful for us. 

With that being understood, I feel like underneath the surface of King Solomon's words, his deep frustration is in the realization that nothing in this world is worth the fuss we make about it.  I've carried on countless conversations with people about their lives and watched people beat themselves up trying to figure out the unknown.  But let me speak from my own heart.  I've noticed how I can be so up and down and beat myself up about the unknown.  I can be on such a great spiritual high, nothing can touch me, Jesus is awesome and King, Lord of all, crying in worship, blogging, and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I'm back with the worrying about my future and my future wife and bills and money and school and whatever.  And this thought hit me,


Why does my faith fluctuate?  Why does our commitment to Jesus fluctuate?  Hey, we are happy to be on His team when things are going well with us, but when it gets a little challenging, we're quick to run back to our old ways of worrying and wrestling within ourselves. 

I was listening to my coworker talk about her misery here in Auburn and how she wants to move to a big city and have her life start and this negative thought came into my brain, "You'll be just as miserable there as you are here." 

But is it not true?  Nothing really brings us joy like we expect it to.  I've watched people in my family want so badly new furniture for their homes, or the new iPad, or new cars, and you can see the hope and excitement in their faces and then when they get it, they're so excited and thrilled about life and have a great purpose and perspective on life, and then a few weeks later, not even a long time, but a few weeks later, they're back realizing the same struggles exist even with the new furniture or when whatever they hoped in proved that it was just a pacifier.  This truth hit me the other day.  I'm so hoping in a new season of my life and things will be better, but is that really true?  Because just like I have worries now, like right now, I couldn't see these worries last year.  So every season of your life has worries and discomforts, so maybe we should stop looking for seasons to make us better, or pacifiers to soften the hunger. 

Pacifiers.  These are the temporary things we find and seek to satisfy our real issues.  A pacifier is given to a child to make him or her think he or she is actually eating or it's used to ease and comfort his or her crying-----truth is reader, we are all hungry for something!  We're all crying out about something!

Aren't we?

Are you not hungry for something?  You want your life to change so bad its killing you isn't it? It's driving you insane, you're crying out desperately, Please Jesus, where's my husband? Where's my wife? Why am I so broke? Why God why!?  And, here is what cracks me up about us, is that we have no idea how to change it. 

I've had countless conversations with people, and you can even give them like a slide show presentation of what to do next and they still won't do it.  The truth of the matter for pastors is that so many of the people listening to him will not heed his words.  I've seen time and time again every semester, Pastor Chris, (my pastor at Church of the Highlands) tries to emphasize small groups as of great importance just so people can leave the church that day and never even think twice about the message--or joining the Dream Team only for people just to ignore the truth of the call of getting plugged into the local church. 

What is this all about?  I wonder have we gotten so used to the pacifier and the benefits of sucking on it that we've forgotten how starved we really are. 

There's something all of us are missing.  I think this quote from C.S. Lewis sums it up. 

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. 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.” --C.S. Lewis. 

Stop being content with the pacifiers.  Let's eat from the fullness of God. 

To be continued.......

Carry Your Name

 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. Acts 9:15 

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin. 

First of all, this story cracks me up.  God has always been interesting in who He chooses to use.  Like in this story in Acts, God chose a murderer of people proclaiming His name to proclaim His name. Hahaha. That would be a person known to be killing Americans is now the president of the United States.  But, that's not the focal of this blog.  Here's my thought for this blog.

How would our lives change if we walked around wearing a T-Shirt that said, "I am a follower of Jesus Christ"? 

What kind of convictions would we carry around with us if we wore a shirt like that?  Where would we go? How would we talk? How would we react?  What would we say?  

During 21 Days of Prayer at my church, I've had a lot of different issues to sort through and pray about.  The most recent and a continual prayer has been me asking the Lord to help me with sharing my faith more.  So one morning, I was praying about this specific topic and the church was playing Christy Nockles "Carry Your Name", and I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me and say, "Son, just carry My name".  And this rushing illustration exploded in my mind.  

Son, carry My name.  Since your sins are hidden in Me, (Colossians 3:3) let your identity be Me.  Wear Me on your chest, in public and in private.  Around your friends and strangers.  Believers and non-believers.  BE ME. REFLECT ME.  You have died to yourself, (Galatians 2:20) so don't carry your identity, carry Mine.

I had this thought.  I've consistently heard from a lot of Christians that they're idea of evangelism is better when a relationship is formed first.  Now, there is truth to this, but it's not the only way to evangelize.  It cannot be the only way we evangelize.  And I'm slowly beginning to notice that this relationship thing can be a justified sellout response.  Here's why I feel that way.   

I think we take pride in our own ability to love someone.  We can love a stranger and share the love of myself, but refrain from sharing the love of Christ?   

Who are you? 

Are you not just a wicked sinner with an inherited rebellious sinful nature that always and consistently pulls you back towards your own selfish motives and agenda?  With your corrupted heart and sinful ways and desires, you can love someone?  Is your love not conditional?  This stranger hasn't offended you yet, so yeah, it's easy to love a stranger. It's easy to love a homeless person, because a part of you knows that they will be grateful for your kind gesture.  But what if they're not?  Where is your love then?  Will it still be there? 

I don't doubt that you can love someone on your own ability, I'm just saying that your love is no where compared to God's love.  Because most of the time your love is very conditionally.  Let that one person pull out in front of you on the highway, where is that "love for people?"

All I'm asking mainly is do we actually carry Jesus's name everywhere with us?  Would it be a little bit more convicting if you had a shirt that confessed for you who you were?  There was no way to hide your faith, could you carry Jesus's name? And I'm not saying run around and throw Jesus in people's faces, because scriptures point to the us loving our neighbors as ourselves. 

So, my thoughts, and I haven't fully figured this thing out yet, is that we must figure out this balance of loving people with the love God gave us.  And recognizing that it's God given gift to us, so us hiding it could possibly be us holding back something God wants to do in the persons life---because again our love is very conditionally.

This is the only way a husband is able to love his wife like Christ loves the church, (Ephesians 5:25).  He is unable to do it on his own strength, so he will have to rely on Christ to love his wife through him.  So I believe if we tapped into this recognition or dependency on God to love for us, we could do it how He is calling for us to. 

So, let's carry Jesus's name, not ours.  Let's love how Christ loves, by letting Him love through us.  Let's reflect Him, present Him to others, not ourselves.