The End

The Way that is Right: Living with the End in View

SYNOPSIS: Just a friendly reminder: the end is near! Hate to break this to you, but it’s coming faster than you think. In light of that, what if you lived every day with the end in view? What if you fast-forwarded the film of your life to the end, to that day when another will speak at a memorial service to eulogize your days on earth? What if you transported in your mind to that day at the end of all ends when you stand before God to give account for the breath of life He had loaned you during your earthly pilgrimage? What you want another person, and more importantly God, to say of you in the end means that you must rewind the tape to the present and begin now to live with the end in view! You see, the end is nothing more than a compilation of the motives, thoughts, attitudes, habits, words, and actions that issue from your head, heart, and hands moment by moment throughout all the days of your life. Yes—there is a way that seems right, but in the end, it produces only death. (Prov. 14:12) On the other hand, there is a way that is right—right in the sight of God—and in the end, it leads to life. We are all headed for the end, that’s for sure, so just make sure the reputation that precedes you will be celebrated by both God and man. Do that, my friend, and in the end, you will be found among the wise!

Moments With God // Claim: Proverbs 14:12

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Just a friendly reminder: the end is near! Hate to break this to you, but it’s coming faster than you think!

So, what if you lived every day of your life with the end in view? What if you fast-forwarded the tape of your life story to the end, to that day when another will stand before a crowd at a memorial service to eulogize your days on earth? What if you transported in your mind to that awesome and fearful day at the end of all ends, when you, along with all humankind, stand before the Righteous Judge to give account for the breath of life He had loaned you for the 70, 80, or 90 years of your earthly pilgrimage?

What do you hope will be said of you then—in the end?

Here’s the thing, my friend: What you want another person, and more importantly God, to say of you in the end means that you must rewind the tape to the present and begin now to live with the end in view! You see, the end is nothing more than a compilation of the motives, thoughts, attitudes, habits, words, and actions issue from your head, heart, and hands moment by moment throughout all the days of your life. They add up. They count. They form a pattern. They create the trend that is your life. They tell your story. They are your destiny. So be careful with the material you give them because it will come out in the end.

Yes—there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it produces only death. On the other hand, there is a way that is right—right in the sight of God—and in the end, it leads to life.

We are all headed for the end, that’s for sure, so let’s just make sure the reputation that gets there ahead of us will be celebrated by both God and man.

Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

The end!

Take A Moment: If you knew that you had one week to live, what would be the first five things you would put on your “To Do” list? Why not go ahead and do them?

Love Is Not Jealous

To Get Rid of Jealousy, Risk All You Have to Give

SYNOPSIS: Jealousy — ubiquitous among humanity (a fancy way of saying we all struggle with it) — desires to possess what another has: their looks, their lovers, their likes on social media, their popularity, their possessions, their achievements, their accolades, you name it. However, our jealous feelings say more about us than those whose things we covet. In reality, jealousy simply disguises our own insecurities. Worse still, it becomes a tool of Satan, whose leading motivation is jealousy. But the Christ-follower is to be different. Scripture is very clear that “love is not jealous.” So, to combat the possessive love-killer called jealousy and send it packing, we must learn to risk all we have to give for the benefit of those of whom we are jealous. Today, get rid of jealousy by risking what you have to give: your un-jealous love!

Making Love Work // 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…Love never fails.

Love–agape love, the love that emanates from God’s being—is not jealous. If you truly love a person, then in the passive sense, you will never be envious of who they are and what they have. In the active sense, you will not allow their successes or possessions or looks to lead you to feel insecure about yourself, then allow that feeling to metastasize into fear, bitterness, suspicion, humiliation, plotting, and rage.

Think of how much damage jealousy has unleashed throughout human history. Two classic examples are found in scripture—one in the Old Testament and the other in the New. In Genesis 37:10-12, we are told that Joseph’s brothers were jealous of their father’s favoritism toward Joseph, of the ornate coat he had given him, of Joseph’s dreams of superiority over his brothers. Because they didn’t have what Joseph had, they sold him into slavery. And even that was a far cry better than what they initially plotted to do—to murder him. Then in the New Testament, Matthew 27:16-20 informs us that the Jewish leaders handed Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified because they were jealous of him.

The poet John Milton said that envy is the devil’s own emotion. Oscar Wilde tells the story of the devil “crossing the Libyan Desert, [when] he came upon a spot where a number of small fiends were tormenting a holy hermit. The sainted man easily shook off their evil suggestions. The devil watched their failure and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson. ‘What you do is too crude,’ he said. ‘Permit me for one moment.’ With that he whispered to [the] holy man, ‘Your brother has just been made [the] Bishop of Alexandria.’ A scowl of malignant jealousy at once clouded the serene face of the hermit. ‘That,’ said the devil to his imps, ‘is the sort of thing … I [would] recommend.’” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Memories and Adventures, 66)

So ubiquitous is the sin of jealousy in the human race that there was even an offering for it in the Old Testament (Numbers 5). Yet jealousy is arguably the hardest sin to recognize and admit to in ourselves. But it’s everywhere; it’s universal. And mark it down: unchecked jealousy eventually leads to relational tragedy.

James 3:16 says, “Where you have envy … there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Jealousy leads us to do evil. It’s why Cain killed Abel. Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, were torn apart by jealous rivalry. Bitter envy separated Isaac’s two sons, Jacob and Esau. The jealousy of Jacob’s twelve sons rips the family apart. It’s why Saul tried to kill David.

It is throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. And it is still at work in the world today. It is destroying families, killing friendships, ruining community, shrinking hearts, wrecking lives—and it is at work in you and me. Nobody gets a pass on jealousy!

Jealousy desires to possess what another has – their love, success, things, popularity, social media likes, Instagram followers, you name it. But in truth, jealous thoughts and feelings are simply insecurities disguised. However, scripture bluntly tells us that we cannot be both loving and jealous. As Dorothy Sayers said of the mutual exclusivity of love and jealousy,

We can’t possess one another. We can only give and hazard all we have.

And that, my friends, is the way to deal with the problem of jealousy: get rid of it by risking what you have to give—your un-jealous love!

Take A Moment: If you are struggling with jealous emotions toward another, first confess it before God, repent of it, and ask for His help to eliminate it from your life. Then every time you feel the emotion of envy of jealously toward someone, practice “thanks therapy.” Simply and consistently offer prayers of specific gratitude for that person until the jealousy vanishes—and if you will do that, it will vanish.

Be a Disappointment to Satan

The Lord Gives and Takes Away - Blessed Be His Name

SYNOPSIS: Instead of cursing God to His face, as Satan had predicted — “take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” Job praised God in his grief — “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” I hope that I will be equally disappointing to Satan! And I hope that my faith will prove equally confident in the sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness of God — no matter what.

Moments With God // Job 1:20-22

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

The story of Job, and particularly, the first chapter where God seems willing to bargain with Satan over testing Job’s faith, is sobering and perhaps even confusing for us modern American believers. We are not used to suffering, or at least we don’t allow that God might give permission for our suffering. Our theology prefers a God who keeps us from all discomfort, so Job story rattles us.

Yet throughout Job, we learn of the unimpeachable sovereignty and goodness of God despite difficult circumstances that would test our confidence in that. And one of the things we learn about God is that in His foreknowledge, He is unshakably confident that Job’s faith is strong enough to handle even the most devastating loss a human being can imagine.

And not only at the end of the book do we see how Job’s faith has come through the furnace of affliction, but from the beginning, we see that he is pre-committed to God sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness as this unimaginable tragedy strikes, as demonstrated by these two juxtaposed verses:

Satan – “Strike everything Job has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Job – “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:11, 21)

Instead of cursing God to his face — as Satan had predicted, “take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” — Job praised God in his grief.

I hope that I will be just as disappointing to Satan!

Likewise, since God knows in advance how Satan will attack my faith with hardship and has confidence in the strength of my faith to come through the fire of testing as pure gold, I hope that like Job, I will never disappoint God’s confidence in me.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Take A Moment: We never know what might befall us in life, and how our faith will stand up to the test of tragedy, but God knows that our faith is strong enough to handle the worst that Satan can through at us. He is that confident in us. So today, express your pre-commitment to God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness.

God Will Perfect That Which Concerns Me

There’s No Stopping The Almighty

SYNOPSIS: As we passionately pursue God’s purposes, God has passionately committed himself to fulfill His purposes in us. No matter what things may look like—horrible circumstances and hateful people notwithstanding—God will never abandon the work that He has lovingly and painstakingly invested in us, and He will ultimately bring that work to perfect completion. No way—you can’t stop God from doing what God does!

Moments With God // Psalm 138:8

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.

“God will perfect everything that concerns you.” (Psalm 138:8, NKJV) I have heard my wife use King David’s phrase many times in her public prayers. I like that promise, don’t you? Nothing will stop God from fulfilling His purpose for my life—nothing!

That was the essence of David’s thinking in this psalm. Nothing could get in the way of what God had in mind—God’s perfect will for his life—not even David’s own fleshly desires. That’s the caveat to this truth: the perfecting is of that which is according to God’s will, which of course, is what ought to concern us more than anything else in this life.

The New Testament writer Jude capture the essence of this truth in his benedictory prayer when he wrote, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25) Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote similar words in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

How comforting and empowering to know that if we are passionately pursuing God’s purposes, God has passionately committed Himself to fulfill His purposes in us. No matter what things may look like—horrible circumstances and hateful people notwithstanding (Psalm 138:7)—God will never abandon the work that He has lovingly and painstakingly invested in us, and He will ultimately bring that work to perfect completion.

What David had discovered was that when we are for God, and when God is for us, we cannot lose! 2 Chronicles 16:9 reminds us this profound truth,

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Wow! God so desires to fulfill His purposes in this world that He is actually scouring the earth looking for fully devoted people in order to release His enabling power in their lives. Is your heart fully committed to Him? If it is, then God will find you, and sooner or later you will come into the greatest joy that anyone can ever experience in this life: God fulfilling His purposes for you and through you.

Yes, God will perfect that which concerns you! In other words, There’s no stopping God!

Take A Moment: What are the obstacles standing in your path to pursuing God? According to Psalm 138:8, God will repurpose those stumbling blocks into building blocks. Try praying a thanksgiving prayer for everything that seems to impede your progress. Then ask God to empower you to work with Him to use those very things to perfect you. Pray this risky prayer: “God use this to shape me.”

Love Is Kind

Love Is Action, Not Abstraction

SYNOPSIS: More than anything else right now, this world needs to be infused with massive doses of kindness, and no other group of people is more equipped to lead the way in flooding Planet Earth with kindness than Christ’s followers. In fact, just about the only currency the Christian community has these days to impact culture is acts of compassion wrapped in genuine kindness. Transforming our culture will not happen by Christians gaining political power or imposing their collective will; neither by cursing the darkness nor by leveraging enormous resources, but by modeling love dressed as simple acts of kindness in the common spaces of life—offering an encouraging word to a friend, humbly serving the poor, giving undivided attention to the marginalized, and last but certainly not least, unconditionally forgiving those who have offended. If we started a revolution of kindness we could change the world!

Making Love Work // 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Among the many expressions the Apostle Paul uses to describe and define agape—that is, the kind of love that characterizes God himself—one of the most profound of his descriptions is that love is kind. I will say it again: love is kind.

Think for a moment where kindness begins: God’s loving-kindness to you. And that is precisely where your kindness toward others is rooted—in God’s kindness. Romans 3:23-24 tells us,

All of us have sinned…yet now God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending Him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in His kindness freely takes away all our sins. (LB)

Simply because He is kind, God has wiped clean your record. There’s no condemnation if you put your faith in Christ. That is good news! Consider this: Even before you were born, God already knew every evil, mean and nasty thing you would say and do. Yet He still made you and He still loves you, and He still sent Jesus to die in your place.

That is the kindness of God, and that is precisely why Paul said in Ephesians 4:32,

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

You can take a giant step toward a harvest of the kindness fruit in your life (after all, kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit) by forgiving people who have offended you. And that is precisely your assignment today—mine, too: Go down the list of offended, estranged, or strained relationships, and simply, unconditionally, fully and personally forgive them—even if they don’t deserve it! Jesus said in Luke 6:35,

Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

There is simply no more compelling witness than God’s kindness on display through you. Romans 2:4 asks, “Can’t you see that God’s kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” God’s kindness toward you, even though you have sinned against Him, draws you back to Him. And so it is that the kindness you demonstrate by forgiving those who have sinned against you will be the very thing that draws them back into a restored relationship with you—and perhaps even God if they have wandered from Him.

Love is the most powerful force for good in the universe. When you are kind, you transform love the noun into a verb—love becomes an action, not an abstraction. Arguably, love clothed as kindness is the most powerful force on earth, precisely because most people know very little about genuine kindness.

More than anything else right now, our world needs massive doses of kindness, and Christ-followers ought to lead the way modeling it. We have the power to change a life, a community, a nation—not by gaining political power, not by imposing our will, not by cursing the darkness, not by giving away enormous resources—but by love dressed as simple acts of kindness, again, not the least of which is through forgiveness.

Let’s start a revolution of kindness—let’s change the world!

Take A Moment: With whom do you need to demonstrate kindness today? And what expression of kindness will be most meaningful to them—forgiveness, an encouraging word, an act of service, giving them your undivided attention? Give them a gift of kindness and so show yourself to be a true child of your infinitely kind Father in Heaven.

Of Filthy Rags, Transformed Hearts, and God’s Stunning Grace

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness

SYNOPSIS: Do you worry a little—or a lot—about being righteous and morally perfect before God? Well, relax! First off, you can’t, and second, Jesus did it for you. You can’t gain what you’ve already been given. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it! In other words, live the rest of your life as one unrepayable debt of gratitude to God for His grace. Now that we’ve settled that, remember that it is not only by grace that we are saved, it is also by grace that we can live the saved life! So, go live like it!

Moments With God // Claim: Romans 10:9-10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

You cannot be saved by your good works. Period! No matter how hard you try, your “good” is not good enough for the perfectly holy and completely righteous God. Nor can you be saved through an alternative, less stringent means, for only through God is eternal salvation possible.

Moreover, you cannot be saved by your moral perfection—no matter how moral you are or how close to moral you get. As the Old Testament prophet Isaiah pointed out, your righteousness is about as good as a “snot rag”. (Isaiah 64:6). I have actually cleaned that up a bit, because the Hebrew words for filthy rags, ukabeged ehdim, according to some scholars, literally means, “like as rags of menstruation.”

Sorry if that disgusts you, but it’s Scripture—so blame Isaiah. The point is, both our acts of righteousness and the quality of righteousness that we hope they produce, are disgusting to God. So if you are disgusted by Isaiah’s language, think of how God is repulsed by our efforts to get him to save us.

So what hope is there for our salvation? Well, no hope resides within us. None whatsoever. Ephesians 2:1 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” All a dead person can do is lay there and be dead, let alone try to be righteous before God.

No, our righteousness—and let’s be clear, we do have to be righteous to be acceptable to God—comes from Christ alone. You see, God sent his Son to die on the cross—hanging there as our sin—in order to pay the just punishment for sin that we deserved. That is our only hope, that Jesus became sin—our sin—and in so doing, he likewise became our righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it well,

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

How dishonoring to God’s grace and Christ’s atonement when we, therefore, try to save ourselves by our acts of righteousness and our efforts at moral perfection. The sooner we realize that the sooner we will discover salvation by grace alone through faith, as Paul spoke about in Philippians 3:8-9,

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them [our best efforts] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

It is only through the power of Christ’s resurrection and our death to self (“becoming like him in his death…” Phil 3:10-11) that our heart—the core of who we are, that which represents every fiber of our existence—will get transformed. And it is out of a transformed heart, and only that, that our tongue can confess Jesus is Lord.

Then, and only then, are we saved.

As the hymn writer said so simply yet so beautifully, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” So relax about trying to be righteous and morally perfect! Jesus did it for you. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it!

Now, in light of what God has done, go live the rest of your life as one unrepayable debt of gratitude to God for His grace.

Take A Moment: Try memorizing and meditating on Romans 10:9-10 each day this week: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”

Love Is Patient

Patience Takes The Courage Not To Be Disappointed

SYNOPSIS: In a season filled with division, anger, loss, confusion, and sadness, take a moment to reflect on John 3:16. This single verse reveals the whole Bible; a simple reminder that God transforming love is available to you through Jesus Christ: “God so loved the world” — God so loves you! Today, let God’s love lift you out of your sadness, flood your soul with inexhaustible joy, and set you on a path to the most amazing experience of life possible, which is being an uninterrupted, inextinguishable conduit of God’s love through you to those around you.

Making Love Work // John 3:16-17

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Someone has rightly said that love is the most powerful force for good in the universe. Since that is the case, shouldn’t there be a lot more of it floating around these days? Sadly, that is not the case. Oh, there is evidence of love here and there, but much of the world is not saturated in it. And frankly, that can be quite discouraging.

For that reason, I would encourage you to take some time this week to reflect on the highest, most dynamic force of love in existence: God’s love. In this season filled with division, anger, loss, confusion, and sadness, take a moment to reflect on the greatest proclamation of God’s love ever made—John 3:16-17,

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (The Message)

This single verse reveals the whole Bible; a simple reminder that God transforming love is available to you through Jesus Christ: “God so loved the world” — God so loves you!

Today, let God’s love lift you out of your sadness, flood your soul with inexhaustible joy, and set you on a path to the most amazing experience of life possible, which is being an uninterrupted and inextinguishable conduit of God’s love through you to those around you.

But let’s take it a step further and describe what the Bible says God’s love flowing through you to others ought to look like. Nowhere is there a clearer, more compelling description of what God expects His love to look like as it is translated through your life than in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7,

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Once a week over the next several weeks, I want to break Paul’s description of love down word-by-word, beginning with this: Love is patience.

Have you lost patience with difficult people in your life lately? Are you fed up with what’s become of your church in these exhausting days of Covid-19 regulations? Are you discouraged by godless and incompetent leaders ruining your nation? If you are, then join the very large and growing company of the impatient.

But listen, God’s plans for the people in your life, His purposes for your church, and His timing for dealing with this evil world are in His control—not yours. If for no other reason, that’s why you need to practice patience. It’s really a matter of your trust and obedience to God. Paulo Coelho notes, “The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” Yes indeed—trust and obedience is the secret sauce to gaining and maintaining patience. Said another way, Luc de Clapiers observes,

Patience is the art of hoping.

So put your hope in God (Psalm 42:5) by making the deliberate choice to be a continual conduit or His patient love.

That will not be an easy assignment, but the God of love is counting on you to be patient love’s exemplar.

Take A Moment: With whom has your love grown impatient? You can begin to reclaim patience in that relationship by praying for them more than you gripe about them, and by specifically lifting up offerings of gratitude for them.