Thursday, December 27, 2012

Simple Counsel for a New Year

As we close one year and prepare to begin a new one, I’m thinking about time.  Some anonymous wag reflected on life and time:

Life is tough.  It takes up a lot of your time, all your weekends, and what do you get at the end of it?  I think that life is all backward.  You should die first and get it out of the way.  Then you live twenty years in an old-age home.  You get kicked out when you’re too young.  You get a gold watch, you go to work.  You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.  You go to college; you party until you’re ready for high school; you go to grade school; you become a little kid; you play.  You have no responsibilities.  You become a little baby; you go back into the womb; you spend your last nine months floating; and you finish up as a gleam in somebody’s eye.

Of course, things don’t work that way, do they?  Life moves forward, not backward.  And instead of finishing as a gleam in somebody’s eye, some finish burdened down with baggage from years misspent, relationships un-reconciled, and opportunities un-seized.  Many people finish life with a lot of what-ifs and if-onlys and a bucketful of regrets.  But this need not be.

God is into fresh starts and new beginnings.  You can’t change the past, but you can make a better future.  You can draw nearer to God through personal spiritual disciplines and involvement in the life of His church.  As far as it depends on you, you can live in peace with others, dropping old grudges and treating others with kindness and understanding.  You can commit to seize the God-offered opportunities that come your way in 2013.  You can set some goals that will get you where you want to go.  God gives us January for such things as this.

What helps me as the years transition are these three truths: God can redeem my past; God is with me in the present; and God holds the future—my future—in His good hands.

As Carl Bard once said, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”  That “anyone” means you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yikes! December 21, 2012, Is Almost Here

So, what if the Mayans are right?  What if December 21—that’s Friday, you know—is doomsday, the last day for planet earth?  Are you ready?

Well, relax.  There’s a good deal of disagreement about whether the Mayans predicted the end of the world or just a new cycle for the world.  The Mayans believed history was cyclical, not linear.  Cyclical history doesn’t lend itself to definite endings but to new beginnings.  And even if the Mayans have predicted a definite end to the world on Friday, fear not.  The Mayans won’t be any more correct on their guess than have the hundreds of others across the centuries who have named this date or that date as the end of the world as we know it.  How many misled Christians have prognosticated the second coming of Jesus on a particular date, only to be proven wrong every time?  I suspect more than we can count.

The Scripture says in more than one place that no one knows the date of the end except God.  Period.  Not a prophet.  Not preacher.  Not a Mayan.  Not even the smartest man or woman in the world.  Only God.  And I can’t imagine that God would ever honor anyone’s prediction by drawing things to close on that date.  Such a person would be insufferable in eternity: “It was me!  I’m the one!  I got it right!  I got it right!”  Please.

But just because we don’t know an exact date doesn’t mean we can’t live in light of that day in this day.  According to Stephen Covey, one of the seven habits of highly effective people is to “begin with the end in mind.”  That’s a good idea for Christ-followers too.  Live today in the light the last day.  Do you remember how you felt when you put off studying for that test or preparing that paper until the last minute?  It’s called “cramming.”  You didn’t feel so confident about outcomes, did you?  Well, if you want to feel confident about being prepared for the last day, live this day in light of that last day.  Prepare now.

If the end is this week, are you prepared?  National Geographic recently did a national survey about doomsday scenarios.  Among the results, 62% believed we’re likely to experience a “major disaster” in the next twenty years, and 85% admit that they are not ready for it should it come.  An even more interesting question asked respondents what they would do the night before they thought the world would end.  Here are the three highest answers: 27% would resolve a family feud; 24% would have sex; and 20% would stock up on resources (although I imagine the shelves might be empty if they wait till the night before the end to do their shopping).

What would you do if the end was this Friday?  Could I encourage you to live every day as if the end was the next day: live in peace with God today; work for harmony in your relationships today; share the love of Christ with people today; spend time with God today; do your best on the job today; enjoy life today; glorify God today.  Every one of those things is a good thing.  Why wait till the very end to put such things into practice?  Live this day in light of the last day.  Don’t try to cram it all in at the end.  Who needs the angst?

I heard about a devoted follower of Jesus who was tending his garden one day when a friend asked him what he’d do if this was his last day on earth.  “Well,” he said, “the first thing I’d do is finish my gardening.”  There’s a man who’s prepared, a man who lives each day in light of the last day.  I want to be that man.  Do you?


By the way, NASA has even weighed in on this craziness.  You can find a story about that here:

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Dark Side of Christmas

Is there anyone who hasn't heard of the events last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut?  And many have taken opportunity to put their two cents into the conversation.  It's no surprise that many immediately jumped on the political bandwagon to make points about gun control, school security, God in schools, etc.  I understand how this event can spawn such discussion.  But for now, we need to just shut up and mourn.  We can hash out these other issues soon enough.

As I was reflecting on this event—and especially with it happening here at Christmastime and all—I couldn't help but remember Herod's slaughter of Bethlehem's toddlers a year or two after Jesus' birth.  I posted on that story back in December of 2009.  While the post doesn't specifically address the Connecticut issue, it does offer some insight into where God is in all of that.

My lack of computer skills means that I don't know how to just copy and paste that blog into this spot, but I do know how to paste and link.  If you're interested in reading that post, drag the cursor over the link below, copy it, and then paste it into the address line.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Case You Missed It

I don’t know how I missed such an important occasion.  You may have missed it too.  Text-messaging is 20 years old.  According to an Eric Limer report in, on December 3rd 1992, a 22-year-old Canadian test engineer sat down and typed out a very simple message, "Merry Christmas." It flew over the Vodafone network to the phone of one Richard Jarvis, and since then, we just haven't been able to stop texting.

Texting is all the deal these days.  In fact, numerous people send more text messages than actually make phone calls.  I discovered a few years ago that if I called one of my kids, I’d usually have to leave a voice mail.  If I texted them, they texted me right back.  It’s a big deal all right, but it didn’t start that way.  In the very beginning, texts were just a way to send network notifications, namely to let you know you had a voice-mail.  In 1993, Nokia introduced GSM handsets capable of person-to-person texting.  Even then, it still didn’t take off.  In 1995, people were only sending an average of 4 text messages a month.

But what a difference a few years make.  In 2010, the world sent over 6.1 trillion messages, or roughly 193,000 per second. And that's just good old-fashioned SMS, not the dozens upon dozens of services it's inspired.  Texting has even spawned its own vocabulary: lol, bff, tnx, and though there are a jillion more, a dinosaur like me is pretty clueless as to any ones but these.  I suspect it’s not far from accurate to state that texting is right near the top of the way people communicate with one another anymore.

It’s ironic that that texting’s birthday comes in the same month that we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  God had been sending the world His messages through prophets and through those who wrote down the words and ideas God had inspired in their hearts.  But on that day in Bethlehem, God sent His Son.  God came in person.  No text.  No prophet announcement.  No voice out of a cloud.  God sent His Son—"born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those that are under the law that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Gal. 4:4).  Could a message be any more intimate or personal or powerful?  In effect, God was saying, “I’m not sending you a word or a prophet or a text; I’m coming down myself.”  Isaiah said it would happen and Matthew confirmed it: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means ‘God with us.’”

So Happy Birthday, Texting, and Happy Birthday, Jesus.  Texting has changed a lot of things in its 20 years.  But it has a long way to go to catch up to the kind of changes Jesus has made in millions of lives, in numerous cultures, and in history itself.  If you missed texting’s birthday, no big deal.  But please, please, please, don’t miss Jesus’ birthday.  That is a big deal. Christmas got the ball rolling toward the cross and the resurrection and the securing of the life that is really life for all who believe.

You know, I'm so grateful I think I’ll send a text message to God: Tku 4 sending ur son.  Hppy bday, JC :)