One Life to Live

“You only live once!” “Go for the gusto!” “Get all you can, while you can!” Such are some of the common declarations we hear. After all, it’s all about [us], babes (so we are told). But what if there really is far more to life than mere stuff and fleeting pleasures? What if it’s not about us, and that we were to someday experientially understand Jesus’ haunting words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36, ESV)?

While the world uses “one life to live” as a declaration, the Bible uses it as a statement of caution. A psalmist lifts the prayer,

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

The writer of Hebrews warns, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (9:27).

The writer of Ecclesiastes had and experienced it all: wealth, fame, education, pleasures, luxuries, parties, etc. Yet, he found no fulfillment in any of these. After wasting so many years on himself, he ends the book with this:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

His point is not a warning of a capricious and vengeful God; rather, a relationship with our Creator and worshiping Him is the very purpose of our existence and what brings genuine fulfillment.

One life to live is all we have. Are we simply going to waste these fleeting moments on ourselves, or fulfill the true purposes in which we were designed for?

Love of Dogs and Lessons from the Spirit

Those who know me know that I love dogs. I have a Peanuts t-shirt with Charlie Brown and Snoopy. The caption reads: “Life is better with a dog.” I have a couple of shirts my wife had made for me that read, “I just want to pet all the dogs.” And our son’s girlfriend had gotten me a hoodie that reads, “Easily distracted by dogs.” Each of these are true of me. I am the person who, if there is a dog in a room filled with people, wants to make a bee line to the doggy.

I shared with my small group leader recently that people think I am joking when I say that I tend to love dogs more than I do people, but I really do. To me, dogs are one of the most noble creatures God has made. Yes, they have some peculiar qualities; however, I know of no other creature that displays such profound and unconditional love, loyalty, and acceptance. People, on the other hand, can be so ugly and mean-spirited. I am perplexed by cities with ordinances which prohibit pit bulls, because each of the pitties I have ever met are sweet little “cuddle bugs”. I have not been bitten by one. However, I have been “bitten” by people many times—even from some whom I had ministered to and thought to be friends.

During a recent small group gathering, the leader had mentioned that God calls followers of Christ to love with agape love; that is, a love that is unconditional and is genuinely benevolent toward others—regardless how we are treated. He reminded us what the Scriptures say:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV)

I later told him that it was as if God was saying to me, “Child, it brings joy to Me that you love dogs so much. So do I, because I created them. I am glad they are a blessing to you and that you have no desire to mistreat them. However, they do not bear My imprint. People are the creatures who bear My image. It is people who are redeemable, it is people for whom I died .” People—the only creation fashioned in God’s likeness and the only creation for whom He died. People are redeemable.

Will we see our beloved pets in heaven? I do not know. I sure hope so. What I do know is the Bible says people will be in only one of two places: heaven or hell, and the former is only by people placing their hope and trust in Jesus Christ because of His redemptive work on the cross. The rest will enter the misery and torment of the latter. Nevertheless, God pleads with humanity.

As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil w in ays, for why will you die…? ~ Ezekiel 33:11 

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:8-9

Do you realize just how much you are loved by your Creator?

The Detriment of Distraction

Ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night we are bombard with noise: Radios, podcasts, television, news, sounds from traffic, from the workplace, from school, and from people all around us.

Sadly, we are not encouraged to truly think for ourselves. News media, celebrities, politicians, and “educators” often try to tell us what to think and how to feel—regardless   how illogical. With the passion of a bushfire, but sometimes intelligence equivalent to that of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Yet, many will mindlessly agree.

Daily we are blasted with such messages: anyone who disagrees is  a bad person, hate-monger, racist; corruption and lies are okay in politics, these simply come with the territory; hypocrisy is only wrong in religion; truth is relative; those who hold to values are dangerous; because there is evil there is no God; humility is for the weak; do what thou wilt, let the chips fall wherever they may—THINK LIKE THE SYSTEM—DO NOT QUESTION IT. LEARN WHAT IT TEACHES; FEEL WHAT IT INITIATES (TO HELL WITH CONSCIENCE); BECOME ONE WITH THE SYSTEM. YOU’RE AN INDIVIDUAL—BUT REALLY YOU’RE NOT!

We have become so accustomed to noise and distractions that many people literally cannot handle periods of getting alone to think and ponder the deeper things in life. What should bring a measure of clarity is thought to be too boring and unnerving, instead. Many people do not know how to handle the combination of silence, stillness, and the triggering of their own thoughts. Furthermore, we have become so adapted to the system (i.e., the world) we do not even realize how much it seeks to manipulate us.

Let’s question the system for a moment and consider:

  • You disagree with persons, sometimes with your closest friends. Are you, therefore, a bad person? A hate monger? A bigot? Are your friends with whom you disagree?
  • Is lying and corruption to be permissible in politics? Do we not resent liars, thieves, and backstabbers when we find them in our midst? So why are these applauded in politics?
  • Why is hypocrisy only shunned when it is found in churches? Why is it not shunned in politics, business, schools, and Hollywood? Many claim to not go to church because of “all the hypocrites,” but the aforementioned have the church beat by far when it comes to hypocrisy.
  • Is truth relative? If so, then how can anything truly be right or wrong? If truth is relative, then all is mere opinion; and things like bigotry, slavery, and oppression are merely neutral. If truth, indeed, is relative, who is anyone to condemn anything?
  • Are those who hold to values (virtue) dangerous? Borrowing from the illustration of another, if you were walking a street at night, who would you rather see? A group of thugs who mock values or a group of people who try to live by values?
  • Because there is evil there is no God? If there is no God, then there is no Standard by which we can discern good or evil. “Good” and “evil” become mere empty words we assign false meaning to. If there is no God, then evolution might be true. If so, then we merely witness “survival of the fittest” when it comes to oppression—simply nature running its course (IF evolution was true).
  • Is humility a sign of weakness? Without humility we cannot truly show genuine respect to one another. Humility is required to recognize and respond to the value of others.
  • Do what thou wilt? This is precisely why our world is in the mess it is in—people living as they will, doing “what is right in their own eyes.” Every action has a reaction. Every choice comes along with consequences.
  • One other thing I will mention concerns slavery. Constantly media and education reminds us of the slavery in our nations past, and the evil thereof; however, for all the supposed hatred of slavery, how come there is not a unified outcry against modern slavery—human trafficking? For all the outcries against the oppression of women and minorities (which are the majority of the victims in human trafficking)  c there is relatively little outcry. Interestingly, some in Washington, Hollywood, and the sports world are known to have profited from slavery. Strangely, for all the outcry against the slavery of the past, too often a blind eye is turned away from today’s slavery!

If, indeed, there is truth to be known, is it good or wise to scornfully sacrifice the quest of it in order to indulge in our pleasures, greed, and pride?

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in his quest for happiness and purpose, indulged himself in pleasures, entertainment, work, education, prosperity, etc. He admits that in proper moderation many of the things he enjoyed are good—but not when they distract us from our deeper purpose. He ends the book with these words:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ 12:13-14

The writer of Proverbs writes:

Let the wise hear and increase in learning…. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction…. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? … Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. ~ Proverbs 1:5, 7, 20-22, 29-32

Heaven (Part 3): R.S.V.P.

Not everyone will enter heaven. What a sad and fearful thought that many church members—even persons of the clergy—will be denied entrance. Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” ~ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Only those who repent of their sins (each of us have sinned) and believe on Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins. Some will argue this is unfair, but consider the following:

  1. God is perfectly holy and pure. By His very nature and essence  He cannot, and will not, permit sin in His presence and heaven.
  2. Those who love sin would not enjoy heaven. The immoral, nefarious, and maleficent would abhor the absolute purity of heaven. Make no mistake, heaven would not be a paradise for those whose hearts are not changed by the Gospel and Holy Spirit.
  3. Some argue the Gospel is too “exclusive,” but God offers His salvation to every individual, regardless of their age, background, gender, color, or nationality. He will not force anyone to accept, but why would a person not want to?

If a deadly virus began ravaging the world, would you resent hospitals for saying there is only one cure? Would you refuse it because of its exclusivity? Yet, God says the only Cure for our dire spiritual predicament is to believe on His Son Jesus who died for our sins. Many are offended by this, and thus, forfeit heaven and every spiritual blessing that could be their’s in Christ.