It’s Personal

He was a sharp, young man—a “millennial,” by chronology, and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. So, I was eager to hear his thoughts on his contemporaries’ openness to the gospel. “With my generation,” he said, “you cannot begin with truth. We value beauty, love, and community, so you have to start there. Ultimately, everyone will have to deal with truth, of course, but you cannot lead into the conversation with it.” While the message was disappointing in a way, his insight provided helpful guidance for one wanting to connect with people raised in a postmodern age.

Like it or not, we live in an era that is, in part, defined by a deep mistrust of truth. We’ve been taught that truth doesn’t exist at all or that it is elusive and largely unknowable, difficult to ascertain at best. Constrained by skepticism, we find ourselves with little more than personal experience to define reality, and “truth” becomes arbitrary, ours to define by fickle feelings as unique as the shifting shadows we cast.

But even cloudy thinking cannot block out “the Father of heavenly lights,” for His truth still breaks through the fogs of uncertainty and illumines even the soul of the skeptic. And if there is a silver lining to the prevailing worldview of doubt, it might be this—people who do search today for what is real do so more cautiously, and when we discover the One who is “faithful and true,”1 we are willing to pay a greater cultural cost to accept Him.

What do we find, then, when we step into the invisible kingdom of God through the unseen doors of faith? Beauty is personal; it has an Artist. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”2 Love is personal; it has an Origin. “God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”3 Community is personal; it has a Home. “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”4

Greater even than the beauty we behold, the love we savor, and the community we embrace is the God in whom they exist, whose image they portray. Regardless of era, irrespective of age, we can trust him, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”5

Lord, lead us out of doubt and distrust, that we might rest in the reality of Jesus, who loves us with an everlasting love. Amen.

“Every good and perfect gift is from heaven above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created. (James 1:17, 18)”

1 Revelation 19:11
2 Isaiah 6:3
3 1 John 4:8b, 9
4 Romans 12:5
5 Psalm 110:5

The Joy Ride, Up

Isn’t it amazing how value shifts over time? In the mid ‘80’s, if you had a sizable sum of money to invest, you might have bought stock in a time-tested entity, like Pan Am, for instance, and bypassed the initial public offering (IPO) of a little-known company named, Microsoft. But $10,000 plunked into Microsoft in 1986 would be worth over $6.3million today. And your little Pan Am nest egg? Sorry, that flight’s been canceled—the company hasn’t flown in over 20 years. Just think of all the similar sagas played out over the past few decades—Walmart and Kmart, Apple and Polaroid, Netflix and Blockbuster, Amazon and B. Dalton, on and on. At any given moment, some investments party on the “up-escalator,” while others sputter on the “down.”

Moses had all the things we value and envy in this life—adopted into royalty, privileged to the treasures of Egypt and the pleasures of life, and certainly the best education money could buy. It was good to be Moses! So, what did he do with it all? He cashed it in, and traded up! The Bible tells us there came a point in Moses’ life when he chose mistreatment with God’s people above “the pleasures of sin,” opted to suffer disgrace for God, rather than to enjoy the “treasures of Egypt,” and risked the wrath of the Pharaoh he could see in order to obey the God he couldn’t. Why? Because Moses saw two escalators headed in opposite directions, and he was on the wrong one. He understood the wealth of this world ultimately descends into nothingness, while the life invested entirely in God rises to “greater value” and “reward”—the kind of riches that satisfy forever the deepest longings of our innermost soul.

For each of us, the time draws nearer when our earnings will grow as silent as E.F. Hutton, our possessions go the way of Polaroid, and our fame fizzle like F.W. Woolworth. We can ride it out, living for worldly gain if we wish, but by now we know its end-point—as grounded as TWA after its final descent. How much better to invest like Moses, placing our very lives in Jesus Christ, an irrevocable trust of enduring value. In Him are hope in a sure thing, faith secure in the One who lives forever, and a love that comes from the Spirit of Him who is love by nature. These are the things we actually do “take with us” when we leave this world, when we step off the escalator that only rises and never descends.

God, take this life, and make it yours in every way. Grace me to trust daily and forever in Christ Jesus. Bless me to live this life in blessing to others. And when my time here is over, take me to yourself, where my true riches lie. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Hebrews 11:23-28.]

A Tale of Three Cities

We were at an impasse, a work colleague and I, needing to resolve a shared problem but with little progress towards a resolution. As I related the situation to my manager, he listened patiently and then shared this helpful insight, “Don’t negotiate as though across the table from an adversary who is the problem; negotiate shoulder-to-shoulder as with a friend, united against a problem you both share in common.” How wise. He was right. I had gotten caught up in the fray of the day, but my boss succeeded in raising my sights above it. Reengaging with my colleague, and now with fresh perspective, we resolved the issues before us. More importantly, we reached a higher level of mutual respect, appreciation, and trust.

Biblical wisdom is knowing what is true and acting upon that truth. The apostle James describes it as “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” We grow in such wisdom not merely by absorbing God’s Word in our minds, but also by living it in our day-to-day lives. It requires intentionality on our part, for James also observes this “pure” wisdom has a very different counterpart: an “earthly, unspiritual” mindset, a “demonic” wisdom without regard for others but intent only on satisfying our own agenda and ambitions.

This is a helpful distinction to understand, for we live among both kinds, be it on a small scale, or large. What kind of “understanding,” for instance, did we see in Charlottesville, where those espousing baseless claims of racial superiority showed themselves far short of such lofty self-assessment through their own acts of ugliness? Where was the love in this supremacy lovefest? Similarly, what can we conclude about those who denounced fascism in Berkeley while exposing themselves through a curious eagerness to employ the brutal tactics of facist oppression? There was lot of hate in that decrying of hate.

How refreshing, by contrast, the wisdom of Houston. What did we see amid waters of unfathomable proportions but people of every color reaching out to people of every color, often risking their own lives in the process? “Submissive … full of mercy and good fruit … impartial.” Who did we see united shoulder-to-shoulder against a common adversary but people of every persuasion serving people of every persuasion, without pausing for a moment to consider their differences? “Peace-loving … submissive … sincere.” We saw no adversaries across the table; there were none.

We ache for the people of Houston, for they have suffered terribly. Yet it is these who have inspired us to honor and awe, for they have lived the wisdom of “love your neighbor as yourself”; they have united together in an era defined by division. If even for a moment in time, they have experienced the beauty of life lived above the fray; they have shown us truth acting out in love.

God, grant us “pure” wisdom that we would know you and join together in you as one. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in James 3:13-18.]