ENDING WELL

I blinked and January slipped through my fingers… While I accomplished some things in the first three weeks of the New Year, I must admit I did not make the progress I hoped to see. Today I am focused and on track. I won’t waste too much time regretting what didn’t get done, but today’s calendar date is a reminder that time marches on, whether I’m up to speed with my goals or not. Years ago a friend gave me a business-sized card that said: “Live With Intention.” I posted it on my kitchen cupboard as a daily reminder to make each day count for eternity. I am not always heavenly-minded – I’m looking to knock off another 10 pounds like so many others, but in the Big Picture of my life, I want to make a difference for eternity. Surely, I want to make the best of 2012, but more than that, at the end of my life, I want to end well. Charles Hart did. I had the privilege of attending his funeral yesterday. Charles Hart was a man of God; he died last week at the age of 96. He spent his entire life pursuing Christ and serving Him. For years, he labored as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Calumet, MI and as the long-time director of Gitche Gumee Bible Camp in Eagle River, MI. When all the tributes were given and story after story told of lives changed for eternity, I couldn’t help but think, “The half has not been told.” Pastor Hart’s son-in-law Bob Fisher sang a moving rendition of “Finally Home,” which depicts the wonder of waking up in heaven – and realizing it is now home! I chose that song for my husband’s funeral 20 years ago; it still thrills and comforts me each time I hear it. I couldn’t help but think that one more song should have been sung at Pastor Hart’s service: “Thank You,” by Ray Boltz.  “Thank You” imagines the scene of a believer arriving in heaven, only to find a line of people waiting to thank him/her for giving of their time, talents or treasure in a way that affected their eternal destiny. If that is an accurate scene, I smile to think of the long line waiting to thank and embrace Pastor Hart! I don’t wish to be morbid, but I’ve chosen a song I would like included in my funeral service some day. Written by Jim Cowan, it is better known as performed by Robin Mark on the “Revival in Belfast” CD, “When It’s All Been Said and Done” speaks to my heart of the importance of a life lived for Christ. What matters when we flip the calendar page on the last day of our lives?  Missionary C. T. Studd got it right: “Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” It isn’t just January that’s flying by. Life is passing at the speed of light. If I am blessed with the longevity of my family, at the age of 62, I still have another 30 years or so to live. Two-thirds of my life is over. What is my goal for the final third? To make it the best yet – to end well. I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV). Thought for the day: What is your goal for this year…and for the rest of your...

ONE THING I WOULD CHANGE…

  “I just wish people would be nice.” That was the poignant response of a 12-year old boy to the fill-in-the-blank question, ” One thing I would change about the world is_______________.”  Joe (not his real name) was referred to me by his school counselor; there were alcohol problems in his family and he was struggling in school. Joe was also mildly mentally challenged, which made him the target of the taunts and teasing of his classmates. He could have wished for the moon in filling in that blank on my questionnaire, but his longing was so simple – just that people would be nice. Jesus wants the same thing. He gave us a pattern for what Joe wanted to change in the world: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment…Here’s a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get” (Matthew 7:1, 12, The Message). Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself – this isn’t exactly rocket-science. It’s simple – but hard to do at times. Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27). (We call it the Golden Rule) The first and greatest commandment says we should love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind. We don’t stand a chance of fulfilling the 2nd commandment if we haven’t followed the 1st one.  Love God – and the rest will follow. As we grow in our love for God, we will care about the things and people He cares about. God has told us what is good and what He requires of us: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We are passionate about attaining our just desserts in this life, but when was the last time we took up the cause of injustice around us? January is Sanctity of Life Month. Most of us will have the opportunity within our churches to pray for and contribute financially to those on the front lines of that battle. In our community dedicated volunteers at Life Outreach offer alternatives to abortion and provide emotional support and practical services to women facing unplanned pregnancies. January is also National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Friends in Grand Rapids are part of the Manasseh Project, working to shed light on the human trafficking that takes place in southwest Michigan. Attend their upcoming conference. Pray for them and the work they do. Plato said, “Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We rarely know what battles others face. The sullen teenager may be worried that his parents are getting divorced or about to lose their home to foreclosure. The waitress who screwed up your order may be distracted because she is dealing with her boyfriend’s abusive behavior. Really. How much effort does it take to be kind to those we meet? With a little imagination and creativity, we could all think of random acts of kindness we could perform. Maybe this week we should all rent the movie “Pay It Forward” to be reminded of the power of kindness. How well are you doing with walking humbly before God? Most of us would admit that we think we know better than God how and when He should answer our prayers. A good place to start might be to get on our knees and ask God to show us His will for us, and to give us the strength, wisdom and willingness to do it. If we would do these simple things, our lives, our relationships, our homes, our workplaces…our world would be transformed. If you’re like Joe, and wish people would be nice, I challenge you with the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God.  ...

OUR STORY – HIS STORY

It has been said many times this past week – “2011 is history.” What’s done is done. No looking back. Perhaps you have also heard that all of history is “His story.” Believing that to be true, I proclaim 2012 to be history…His story, waiting to be written in our lives and in our time. God is not subject to time – to Him, a thousand years are like a day gone by (Psalm 90:4) – we are the ones who mark the passage of time in years. We refer to significant periods in our lives as “chapters.” That is probably truer than most of us realize. One chapter followed by another, then another…and then, our lives – our stories – are complete. “…we spend our lives as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9 NKJ). Our stories will be marked by a combination of drama, comedy and certainly, a dose of tragedy, but have no doubt about it: Our stories are part of a bigger story – His story. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “A man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” We are to enjoy Him through a close, personal relationship with Him in our life time, and then, throughout eternity. How can we glorify God? The Apostle Paul urged the Corinthians, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). Jesus put it this way: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJ). Let us be open to the people, places and things God chooses to be part of our stories this year. May His will be done in our lives – on earth, as it is in heaven – in this chapter of our stories, so that our lights may shine bright in this dark world, as bright as the candles we held high on Christmas Eve. The Bible is a history book – one that tells the story of God’s relationship to man – His story. The story line is in three parts: He is coming (OT). He came (NT). He’s coming again (Revelation). May 2012 find us anticipating (but not setting dates!) for Christ’s return. The canon of Scripture is complete, but the story – His story – continues to be written  in us. This next chapter is sure to be a page-turner… May God be glorified in us all His story in...